Sales Trend 2 from our 12 Sales Trends for 2017 report is about the new salesperson stereotype.

The history of sales methodologies and sales people is full of twists and turns. With a few excellent –or at least well-intentioned– ways of selling and many others that are the complete opposite.

There was a time when the salesperson was the only one with information about new products—from the end of the 19th century to mid-20th century; they were the experts and customers were in their hands when it came to make a buying decision. This produced a situation where many sales people started to take advantage of the naïve and ignorant customer and sold them whatever they wanted to sell to them, often under the illusion of the promises of miraculous outcomes. 

In brief, from the 1800’s until now there have around 20 different ‘schools of thought’ when it comes to sales methodologies. Having a look at the characteristics of salespeople for each one of these methodologies it is easy to understand how the stereotype of the sleazy, loud and overconfident salesperson came about, and why this negative stereotype has been perpetuated in screens big and small through movies, television shows and advertising. Typical examples are Glengarry Glen Ross, Mad Men, Wall Street and the Wolf of Wall Street to name a few.

It shouldn’t be surprising then that it’s difficult for many people to be associated with the sales profession, even when they are in sales—and, who isn’t in sales these days?

Contrary to the general, and overwhelming, perception that sales people are loud and outgoing, there is much more a mix of effective sales types with the latest research pointing to the versatile ambiverts[1] as being the best sales people; those who can mix it up with people as well as listen and be quiet when needed.

The stereotype of the loud, confident, fast-thinker, and fast talking personality as a ‘great salesperson’ is slowly fading. However, they still remain prominent in many people’s minds especially when they are associated with being manipulative. Generally, this is because of the obvious fact that people with that type of personality are easier to spot, and it’s the stereotype that is still being perpetuated in the media, movies, television, etc.

It also happens that this is a very common stereotype of success—boasting self-confidence and a command of the room.

Clearly, this loud and aggressive stereotype does not represent the majority of sales people and sales people are tired of being associated with it. They no longer want to be categorised like this because it has clear and direct links with the image of an unethical, manipulative and sleazy salesperson.

This silent majority wants a new stereotype to be the norm.

Alec-Baldwin-in-Glengarry-Glen-Ross(film)

Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross (film)

Re-thinking the sales stereotype

Many people start their sales career being ashamed of being in sales and fear being associated with the negative stereotypes of the sales profession, holding strong negative views of selling. This makes their work harder and their lives more miserable if they carry this burden with them every day. With time, education and good information they come to understand what good selling is about: a fair exchange of value, helping people, and that everybody lives by selling something. Selling becomes a profession (or part of a career) to be proud of.

To move from ordinary to extraordinary salespeople the silent majority must speak up.

Most salespeople know that they only want the best for their clients and companies, and they are tired of being judged by the acts of a minority and what the media portrays. 

So here’s what the silent majority want people to know:

  • If you have to fool or trick your customers into buying something then it’s not good selling, that deception.
  • If you have to take advantage of someone to get something then it’s not good business.
  • Selling is an honourable profession, when performed with integrity and transparency it adds real value to both buyer and seller.
  • Selling is the oxygen that fuels the fire of business and industry—without sales we have no business.
  • Selling is about the fair exchange of value where both buyer and seller benefit.
  • If you want to introduce a new idea or concept to someone and persuade them of the merits of what you have then you are in selling.
  • Selling is vital life skills as well as a vital business skill.
  • Today, selling is everybody’s business and everybody lives by selling something.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au 

[1] Someone who exhibits qualities of both introversion and extroversion.