Overcome, Conquer Sales Stereotypes

Originally published: 04.01.08 by Tom Piscitelli


Salespeople are prejudged as pushy and manipulative. Prove them wrong.

Ask a room full of professional hvacr salespeople if they are proud of being a “salesman/saleswoman” and few will raise their hands. When asked why, the answer is consistent: They are not comfortable being associated with the stereotype that includes pushy, manipulative, greedy, sleazy and worse. With such a poor self image, it’s no wonder that our rank-and-file salesperson doesn’t practice the fundamental sales strategies and skills that would bring them sales success.

Few salespeople ask for the order, effectively respond to objections, or follow up until the customer makes a decision. They do nothing and say nothing—in large part because they don’t want to be “one of those pushy salespeople”— and that costs them sales, income and customers. 

Is that stereotype accurate? Not really. The negative stereotype is a composite of all experiences with all salespeople who individually had some characteristic or behavior that was objectionable. These experiences are mentally combined into a single image and projected on to all those who sell. So in this way all salespeople are prejudged as pushy and manipulative and the moment one of them exhibits some behavior that seems to fulfill that expectation the customer reacts accordingly. So it is logical that a salesperson will behave in a way that avoids any connection with that negative image and, by not using effective sales tactics and skills, get a poor sales result. 

What a mess. Customers have their guard up and you are afraid to do the things that will help you make the sale. The irony is that customers want you to act like a professional salesperson and know that you are, in fact, noble in your intention to help them solve their problems. Here’s what you can do. 

Behavioral scientists have learned that 93% of all communication is non-verbal and that 94% of our brain’s activity is unconscious. Put these facts together and it suggests that we constantly send out information about our thoughts and feelings that others accurately perceive. If we shade the truth, if we aren’t confident, if we don’t believe in what we are saying then the other person knows it. Perhaps you are thinking you are clever enough to fool others — well fuggetaboutit, you aren’t. Others might not consciously tell themselves you aren’t being truthful or sincere, but they will unconsciously sense it and respond by closing off or withdrawing. The only “fix” for this is to tell the truth, be confident and focus on serving your customer, not yourself. 

Now let’s consider this from the customer’s perspective. It’s likely they have had negative buying experiences and aren’t looking forward to having to find a contractor they can depend on, come to their home, sort through information they don’t really understand and make a big-money decision they might regret for a long time. These predictable concerns are in the way and you can remove them by following the guidelines I’ve previously shared with you: 

• All customer contact must be proper and positive. 

• Your appearance and attitude create a memorable first impression. 

• The initial “approach with discovery” stage of the sales call can’t be abbreviated or skipped. 

• Take the time to explain how your company and your team members are highly qualified to provide the best installation and service there is. 

• Offering “choices” puts the customer in control…as they should be. 

• Once you’ve created rapport and trust you have earned the right to ask for the sale, respond to objections and follow up until they make the decision. This isn’t pushy if they trust you…it’s good customer service. 

• After the sale they will want you to stay in touch. You will have become their contractor-of-choice.

Each person is unique. The way one thinks and behaves is different from another. What makes sense to one person might not to another. One customer will spend $2 for a bottle of water while another drinks from the tap. The water salesperson is better off finding potential customers among those who value the benefits of bottled water instead of trying to convince those who aren’t interested to buy. 

The salesperson will tend to sell to others based on what they think is important to themselves. In other words, we tend to sell based on how we buy. The better approach would be to find out how the customer thinks and feels about the buying process, about the problems they have, about the company who does the work…and then help them get what they want in a way that makes sense to them. In other words, the better you are at communicating in ways that make sense to the customer, the more effective you will be at meeting her needs and making the sale. 

It’s simple: Ask…Listen…Write Down what the customer says. Don’t judge what she will or won’t want and what she can or can’t afford. Offer solutions that match up to her unique needs and ask if she wants to invest in it. 

Put aside your desire to make the sale — that will come when you treat all customers with respect. The stereotypical salesperson is concerned about himself; you will separate yourself from all others in a most positive way by being there to serve your customer first. 


Articles by Tom Piscitelli

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Overcome, Conquer Sales Stereotypes

Find out how the customer thinks and feels about the buying process, about the problems they have, about the company who does the work…and then help them get what they want in a way that makes sense to them.
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