Delving into the Mind of a Salesperson


There is probably no more uncertain business conditions and mental warfare than those surrounding a salesperson’s day compared to, say, technical or administrative workers. I call it mind-ninja-ing. This applies similarly to the small business owner who is a salesperson himself but of a more Jedi level.

The main distinction in selling is that salespeople have to “find” the work. In other jobs, the work finds the worker. Thus the salesperson is technically jobless the first of each month, a (semi-scared) hunter looking high and low for a few big kills a month. I am not speaking of store type salespeople where the customers come in. The profession of sales lies with outside reps who create solutions for businesses and people in need of them.

Success in sales still flows from the simple math of calls + appointments + presentations = sales. Experienced reps know it is more about being a combo of Dick Tracy and Perry Mason that wins the day. They leave nothing to chance and use their time with the customer to uncover all relevant facts and pain points, especially those that the customer is unaware of. Then make the home run presentation that satisfies the needs which earns the sale (the “Need/Satisfaction” method).

That’s if all goes perfect, which it never does. Salespeople live with broken appointments, dashed hopes, incomplete customer input, suddenly incommunicative prospects and new competitors invited at the last minute. If we could pry open the cranium of a salesperson and look in we would probably see something as mysterious as the inner workings of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. There would be Oompa Loompas running scattered and frenzied yet ultimately presenting an appealing product.

Salespeople have ‘X’ factors to contend with. “Will my product make headlines as a carcinogen? Will my customer call in sick the last week of the month? Will my demo unit break down? Will the manufacturer raise the price? Will the customer pass credit? Will the competitor cut the price to ridiculous? Will my contact get fired? Yes to all these at one time or another. The uncertainty, remember? These days we can’t leave out “Whaaat, my customer is going out of business!”

Which is why salespeople need constant praise and maximum reassurance so as to banish all their anxiety and self-doubt. Part of every month is allocated to worrying. The less of that in their brain space the better they perform. Reps have slumps, wondering if they will ever make another sale. They never have the control they would like. The excessive talking that marks many reps is just a method of exercising some control over insecurity. While they talk, they have some control.

Then comes the euphoria of making a great sale! It’s a high, for sure, which makes sales a type of bipolar disorder. Feels like that birdie putt, or taking delivery of a new car, or a big gain on a stock, or getting that great date, or putting on a custom suite. The idea is to stay ahead of your quota so you can enjoy this feeling regularly. If so, there is no better job in the world.

Tom Pease is owner of e/Doc Systems, an office equipment company. Communicate with him on Facebook.