I've noticed a career track in salespeople who have hung around long enough to establish some kind of a pattern. This article discusses the 3 phases salespeople go through during their careers. SalesLinksMentor Associates sales training and consulting services recommend this sitefaqdedicationsite map
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Observations and tips for business to business salespeople

June 1999 v1

The Art of Salesmanship Is the Absence of Salesmanship

jack carrollby Jack Carroll

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:

  1. The art of salesmanship is showmanship
  2. The art of salesmanship is the concealment of salesmanship
  3. 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."

SIDEBAR: Sales Tip and Practice
Reflect on your own growth regarding the art of salesmanship. Pick out a single habit or practice that you know could be improved regarding legitimacy and customer communication. Work on it every day until it's much better. Then move on to some new weakness. And so the journey and adventure goes.

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  1. 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.
  2. The art of salesmanship is the concealment of salesmanship. Characterized by well-prepared, interactive questions that elicit the "right responses" from the customer.

    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.
  3. 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 life."


Reader Response
  • 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
    Dear Jack,
    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, awald@icon.co.za
    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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