The Five Biggest Myths Of Professional Selling

By Michael Rega

Publication: American Salesman
Date: Wednesday, March 1 2000

“Good sales people are born, not made”

This is perhaps one of the widest held beliefs among non-sales types. Just as the childhood athlete learns how to ice skate, roller blade or perform gymnastics through years of practice; the tools a sales person needs to master are selling skills. It is not a natural process to “close” a deal. It is a skill set just like anything else. Selling requires a working knowledge of psychology, sociology, communication and persuasion. Good sales people are, in fact, made. It is true you must start with some good raw product.

Think of selling as a skill set just as if you would golf or sailing or gymnastics. Selling is something to learn, something to practice and something to master. It is indeed the easy way out to say, “Well, sales people are born, not made or I guess I am just not a good sales person,” than it is to put your nose to the learning stone, attain and retain the skills required to be a professional salesperson.

“Good sales people have the gift of gab”

This is another ridiculous myth propagated by any buyer who, in the past, has been put into a lose/lose situation. The fact is, to be a great sales person you do not need “the gift of gab.” You need the opposite; a well-refined ability to listen. Buyers today have become remarkably sophisticated and are turned off by a “slick” approach to selling. Think of the last time you felt as you were being “sold to.” How did that make you feel? It probably made you feel, among other things, as if you were not being listened to, and you are probably one hundred percent right. One of the most over looked skills in all of professional selling is listening. People believe they are better listeners than they are. Listening is an extremely difficult self monitoring exercise. Try using a small tape recording device in your next several sales calls. Turn it on and throw it into your pocket for the purpose of listening to yourself, not to your prospect. Monitor how long it takes from the time your prospect stops talking to the time you start responding. If you are constantly interrupting, talking over the top of, and not properly answering the question asked, then you need to revisit your listening abilities.

“Good sales people are lively, talkative, enthusiastic”

This is absolutely not the case in many arenas. In a technical sales situation, when you are dealing with a strong analytical mind, (engineering, mathematics, medical, accountants, financial), lively and enthusiastic speech and body movements turn off the prospect. Things must match up in the analytical mind. Calmness is celebrated. A lack of enthusiasm and excitement are revered. We all have heard another definition of selling as the “transfer of enthusiasm.” This is not so in the analytical mind. Many of us who sell in the technical arenas must understand a mirroring process should take place between the prospect and the salesperson. You need to be enthusiastic if the prospect acts this way.

You need to speak with your hands and show excitement only if the prospect communicates this way. In the technical fields, you must be calm, thorough and straight forward when dealing with a calm, thorough, straight forward analytical.

Do not get into a situation where you have only one sales structure. A happy go lucky joking sales person will not be effective in the upper levels and in financial and technical selling. This does not mean you walk in with a frown on your face. You always want to smile and be pleasant. However, you risk not being taken seriously by a strong analytical mind if you are lively and enthusiastic in all of your sales approaches.

“Good sales people are mavericks”

The truth is, skilled sales people are good at leveraging. This means good sales people know how to sell both externally and internally. These are the people that have the greatest customer service reps and can somehow get an order out of the factory faster than anybody else.

They somehow get management to move quicker than anyone else in the organization. They may be viewed as mavericks by management, but their ability to leverage their relationships internally with customer service, inside sales, marketing and manufacturing, is what makes them appear to be mavericks.

When a sales person gets a product out the door in one week when the lead time was five weeks, you hear “Wow, what a maverick,” not “Wow, what a great salesperson.” It is not the act for sake of not following the rules, it’s smart leveraging of relationships and corporate assets.

“Good sales people should be promoted to management”

This is one of those areas that gets a lot of companies in trouble. The problem is when you look at personality styles and personal goals, you’ll find the personality characteristics that make up a great sales manager differ from those that make up a good salesperson.

Managers are team players. They understand the resources available to the salespeople; understand the corporate goals and truly understand the corporate mission. Companies assume since salesperson X in Chicago has been consistently exceeding goals for a number of years; then why not make them the next regional or national sales manager? Most times the characteristics of a super manager are extremely different from the characteristics of a super salesperson. Be aware of what attributes your company wants in a manager before promoting the “Best” salesperson. You may find out your “Specs” differ considerably. There are droves of unfulfilled sales managers across the United States and consequently, there are armies of frustrated salespeople laboring under poor management.

Consider these selling myths and how they spread like wildfire across the globe. If you or your company has acquired any of these five, you may want to reconsider the mind set and change some attitudes.