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Peddlers, Hucksters, & Empty Suits

By Shamus Brown
Posted Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Ever feel like you were "just a salesperson"?

I think anyone who has been in sales for awhile has thought or felt this at sometime in their career. In some fields, sales is such a dirty word that they've created euphemisms to try and reclaim some dignity.

I am sure that you have heard many of these. I used to carry the title of Account Executive. Nice title, but it's meaningless. "Executive" in charge of what? The empire of my mind?

Business Development is another one: "we don't sell... we develop business". Gee, creating business where there previously was none... sure sounds like sales to me.

Here's my new favorite I heard just recently. A major aerospace firm that sells their services to the government calls selling "capture". As in "capture" the contract. I don't know about you, but anytime I "capture" a contract I just made a "sale".

It's sad that society has shamed us into doing this.

We only perpetuate this shame when we lack pride in the title of salesman.

Continue holding this shame, this guilt, this lack of pride, and one's confidence plummets (and you know just how vital confidence is to performing successfully in sales).

If you have ever noticed thoughts like this taking root in your mind, here are two things you can do about it.

#1 - Sell something that you believe in.

This one is so simple, but not enough people do it. If you believe in what you are selling, then you will be confident that you provide value. It is vital that you believe that what you sell helps or benefits others. Most of us know this one, but sometimes we need reminding.

#2 - Recognize Your Value as a Salesperson

When you know your product, your company, and your industry, you offer value to your prospects and customers. Your knowledge is your value. You have specialized knowledge about what you sell that often your customer does not have.

Perhaps you are "just an account executive", and are more of a generalist in terms of your product and industry knowledge. You still offer tremendous value if you have access to people in your company who function as sales support specialists - engineers, consultants, product managers, etc. Your value is as a resource broker.

Although you will occasionally encounter customers who know more than you or your specialists, you and your team know more than 95% of the customers you will meet.

Here's the important lesson. A prospect gets value simply from interacting with you, whether or not they ever buy anything from you.

Yes, that's right. The act of selling alone is valuable to a prospect, regardless of whether or not the outcome is a sale.

Why is this true? When you know what you sell well, then you know how it helps people. When you use good persuasive questioning techniques, you help your prospect to discover problems, shortcomings, and solutions. Helping someone to find the solution to a problem is helping to solve that problem.

Many prospects just take it for granted that it is our job to give them the info that they want. This is a job that you and I choose to do. And we have a choice as to who we want to sell to. We don't sell to someone because we must. We sell to someone because we have something to gain from making the sale.

So there is trade going on here. Customers can make us money, and we can solve a customer's problems. A value for value exchange is taking place *during* the sales process.

When we push things on people that are unwanted, we are just peddlers. When we help people to find and solve problems, then we are providing value.

We are not empty suits. We are not just a peddlers. We are salespeople. Be proud of it.

© 1999-2004 Shamus Brown, All Rights Reserved.

About the Author
Shamus Brown is a Professional Sales Coach and former high-tech sales pro who began his career selling for IBM. Shamus has written more than 50 articles on selling and is the creator of the popular Persuasive Selling Skills CD Audio Program. You can read more of Shamus Brown's sales tips at ( and you can learn more about his persuasive sales skills training at (


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