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."

  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 receive many compliments on style.

    Negative aspects: One-sided approach that doesn't take into consideration much of what is going on with the customer. 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 a wise old sage said, is the " true art of salesmanship, and of life."


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 go.

Copyright 1998 Mentor Associates Inc.