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All Salespeople Are Crooks

I would imagine that most of us have heard or said the title words of this blog at least once in our lives. I even know salespeople who call other salespeople crooks. This is especially true of my sales brethren who sell used cars. A used car salesperson is to other salespeople what a divorce lawyer is to other lawyers – a red headed stepchild. Us high-end capital salespeople with our fancy pedigrees of Professional Selling Skills, Consultative Selling, Strategic Selling, and SPIN Selling love to look down on used car salespeople as if they exist at the bottom of the barrel. Truth is, as I often said when I was a corporate sales trainer, most of us would flounder if we found ourselves selling used cars. To me, the used car salesperson is a hero. They are faced with the hardest commodity grade sale in the business, and they pull it off day after day.

To the point, I am here to tell you that the perception of salespeople being crooks is a false stereotype. A more accurate statement would be that consumers get the salespeople they deserve. You read that last sentence correctly. As I learned early in my sales career, it is consumers who create an environment where honest salespeople fail, and dishonest salespeople thrive. In essence, us buyers are victims of the monsters we create.

Buyers are victims of the monsters they create.

I am not ashamed to say that I failed miserably during my first year in sales. Coming from a service background, I thought prospects would respect me for being honest. Sadly, I found the opposite was true. I would provide my prospects with all the information they requested and honest answers to their questions. However, my competitors would sugar coat their answers. Some of them even outright lied about operation, reliability, and performance. Who did my prospects buy from? My competitors, of course. They did not care that I was honest, because an honest story is rarely a pretty story. Instead, they believed the stories weaved by my competitors, which promised to make all their dreams come true. Then, when they found themselves disappointed, they would complain that salespeople cannot be trusted. Sadly, honesty is contrary to human nature. Let us face it, truth can be brutal. Sure, we may say that we want honesty, but what we really want is for people to say what we want to hear.


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My honesty did result with my prospects loving me. I just happened to be that salesman who everybody liked but gosh darn I never seemed to have anything they wanted to buy. I have since schooled a lot of rookie salespeople who think they must be liked in order to sell. The truth here is that you do not have to be liked by prospects to have them buy your product, you just cannot be hated by them.

You do not have to be liked by prospects to have them buy your product, you just cannot be hated by them.

I too am guilty of this behavior. My first wife and I found ourselves in need of window dressings after the purchase of our first home. We made appointments with salespeople from two different interior decorating companies. The first salesman was a quintessential fast talker. He knew time was money and that he was selling what amounted to a commodity. In this situation, price is often king. So, the first salesperson asked a scant few questions, showed us his catalog, scribbled up a quote, tried to close us, and moved on to his next prospect. His time with us totaled fifteen minutes at most. The second salesman was a personable man who spent over ninety-minutes with us. He took time to learn our needs, showed us his catalog and samples, and explained the differences in materials. Then he measured our windows and gave us a quote. While he was measuring the windows, he noticed that the vertical blinds in the Living Room were broken, so he went out to his car, got his tools, and spent thirty-minutes repairing it. When he left:

My first wife said, “What a great guy.”
“Yes, but he is a terrible salesperson,” I replied.
“Why would you say that?” She asked in shock.
“Who are you going to buy from, the first salesman or the second one?” I asked.
“The first one of course, his price was less than half of the second,” she replied without hesitation.
“As I said, he is a wonderful guy, but a terrible salesperson.”


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The first mistake of the second salesman was not properly identifying our crisis-point, which was to dress all the windows at the lowest possible price. I talk more of crisis-points in my upcoming book Crisis Point Selling: How to Sell with Deadly Accuracypreorder here. Nonetheless, he could have differentiated his product and saved the sale. His mistakes were:

1 – He was brutally honest.

2 – He was extremely helpful, but he did most of the talking.

In a successful sale, the prospect should talk three times as much as the salesperson.

3 – He did not properly qualify us, and he spent way too much time with us.

That time could have been invested in a more promising prospect.

4 - He gave away a value-added service without using it to close the deal.

5 – He did not try to close the sale.

In addition to identifying the correct crisis-point, he could have set a bias by exploring our fears. Then he could have leveraged our aversion to loss by explaining how the lesser materials do not hold up – resulting in frustration, wasted time, and money. Furthermore, he could have closed the sale by saying, “I noticed that the dressing on the Living Room window is broken. It will be weeks before you will have new window dressings. Just give me a deposit for an affordable payment plan, and I will get my tools and repair that window dressing for you.”

Irrespective of the salesman's technique, my behavior was the same - to reward the fast-talking salesperson and to penalize the honest one. About a year later, when the window dressings started to fall apart, I said without missing a beat, “That SOB sold us junk."

These days, I am still honest with my clients. If I were not, then I would not have survived nearly forty-years in this industry. However, I am way better at qualifying my prospects for a ‘true-fit’ to my product, accurately identifying their crisis-points, and using those crisis-points so show them how sick they are, so I can sell them the cure.

The next time you find yourself condemning salespeople for being dishonest, try to reflect on the fact that you may be the reason they are dishonest in the first place.

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