Observations and tips for business to business salespeople
June 1999 v1
The Art of Salesmanship Is the Absence of Salesmanship
My career in sales has undergone three separate and distinct phases or levels of
growth. It's a track I've seen in others who have hung around long enough to establish
some kind of a pattern, so I thought it might be instructive to discuss them here. The
three phases are:
- The art of salesmanship is showmanship
- The art of salesmanship is the concealment of salesmanship
- The art of salesmanship is the absence of salesmanship
Here are the characteristics of each. See if you can recognize where you are regarding
the "art of salesmanship."
- The art of salesmanship is showmanship. Characterized by the development of
sophisticated and polished presentation skills that almost unfailingly dazzle (but do not
always win the business).
Positive aspects: good exhibition of product knowledge wrapped in exceptional
presentation skills. You are the recipient of many compliments on style.
Negative aspects: One-sided approach that doesn't take much of what is going on
with the customer into consideration. If their eyes don't light up on one of your
presentation points, you're in trouble.
- The art of salesmanship is the concealment of salesmanship. Characterized by
well-prepared, interactive questions that elicit the "right responses" from the
Positive aspects: interaction with and feedback from the customer.
Negative aspects: Often a stacked deck. Leading questions usually reveal what you
think the issues and problems are, not what the customer knows they are.
- The art of salesmanship is the absence of salesmanship. Characterized by a quiet,
relaxed, well-prepared salesperson who forgets every aspect of technique and just listens
and reacts in "real time."
Positive aspects: It's so easy to tell the truth.
Negative aspects: It often takes a lifetime in sales before one has the confidence
to say almost nothing and communicate effectively.
And that, as the wise old sage said is the "true art of salesmanship, and of
- posted by Mike O'Horo, 11-Jun-1999, Coach@salesresults.com
From one "3" to another, congratulations on articulating a concept that I've
wrestled with describing. I tell the lawyers in my programs that we want to get
"caught" selling, because the buyer will recognize that the goal of our sales
investigation is to help them define where they want to go and help them get there,
wherever "there" is. Or, if what they need to do is something we can't help
with, we'll say so and try to steer them to the appropriate solution, or at least get out
of the way and let them get on with it. But we will always help them achieve clarity, and
that's very valuable to a senior executive.
- posted by Will DeBouver, 15-Jun-1999
My company wants me to be in stages 1 and 2, but I feel comfortable that I am in stage 3.
I do a heck of a lot more of listening and fact finding than I do of glitzy presentations
and canned questions.
- posted by Anthony Wald, 16-Aug-1999, firstname.lastname@example.org
Being a 3 is fine as long as you dont forget one vital factor. You still
have to close the deal. Otherwise if we all become 3's its fantastic we'll have sweet,
nice listening warm fuzzy salespeople who never write any business. I would trade all my 3
sales team who can't close for 1 & 2 any day who know how to close. So the real art of
sales is becoming a 3 and still have that closing ability.
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