Seven signs that you are in the presence of a Sales Narcissist
Stop trying to impress me. It’s a real turn off. I can make up my own mind about whether I like you, trust you, believe you, or not. You don’t have to make up my mind for me.
Despite this, you continue to dominate my space assertively trying to convince me of your merits. My logical brain shows me a well presented, confident individual yet my intuition, my gut, is telling me to be wary of you because I’ve seen people like you before… and the result usually isn’t very nice.
If you haven’t worked it out yet it’s everything you pride yourself on. It’s the charm you exude, the cut of your suit, your answer for everything, your smooth talking and your sustained eye contact and set smile. It’s even your instant warmth and sincerity, your penchant for storytelling, your endless advice giving (even if we don’t ask for it), the way you dominate conversations (instead of listening) and your seemingly full of promise. Except all you do is leave me feeling that only you matter and I’m just a pawn in your game of seduction, control, and self delusion.
So stop it. I’m not buying it anymore. You’re too dangerous. Get out now.
Here’s how to spot the Sales Narcissist before they get you.
Say hello (or rather goodbye) to the Master Charmers – the Sales Narcissists; the sales people who schmooze their way into your world, gaining your trust only to rip you off and leave you worse for wear. These guys give sales a bad name and one Sales Narcissist can make a bad impression despite 20 good guys leaving a good one.
A degree of narcissism is common in many people. It becomes pathological when the narcissist lacks normal empathy and uses others ruthlessly to their own ends.
Like all narcissists, the sales narcissist is a master manipulator.
Besides the clues I listed in my introduction, the list of behaviours (compiled from the latest research* on narcissists) below will give you some clues that a Sales Narcissist may be in your midst. A word of caution: just one item does not make for a Sales Narcissist. However, if you can list five or more behaviours for one individual my advice is to keep your hand on your wallet and your eye on the Sales Narcissist while you back up to the door and then run like hell.
- 1. Self-absorbed and attention seeking
- Seeking and requiring excessive attention, admiration and rewards from others.
- Listen for the constant use of “I”, “me” and “my” when they talk.
- They get impatient and restless when the topic of discussion is about someone else and not about them.
- Tend to use melodramatic righteous indignation to over-assert their character, credibility, values and integrity.
- Insists on being the centre of attention and is often the most charming person in the room.
- Very outgoing and excels at marketing themselves.
- Highly materialistic.
- 2. Deception and rule breaking
- They feel that the rules at work don't apply to them, often lying to get what they want.
- They will always cheat whenever they think they can get away with it.
- They are inappropriately calm and poised even when they are caught in a lie, and when caught in a lie they explain it as a “harmless misunderstanding”.
- There is often a history of concealed legal problems and financial “misunderstandings”.
- They use self-delusion to justify unethical behaviour, “you’d do the same thing if you were in my position”.
- They deal with dubious ethical issues by relativising them with phrases like; “It’s just how you look at it” or “Everybody else does it”.
- They can use verbal ambiguity as a manipulative technique – says a lot but with no substance.
- 3. Arrogance and superiority
- Seeing themselves as perfect, they project to dump shame onto others.
- If they feel deflated they may come across as arrogant displaying a sense of superiority by diminishing, debasing, minimising or degrading somebody else.
- Unfailing belief in their superiority over others.
- Their behaviours are tailored to appear psychologically open, strong, caring and resilient.
- They claim to have expertise in an unrealistic, impossible number of fields.
- 4. Sense of entitlement and aggression
- Feeling a sense of entitlement, they hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favourable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special.
- Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority, and the perpetrator is considered an "awkward" or "difficult" person.
- They are given to frustration, anger and irrationality when they do not get what they want.
- 5. Deflection and exploitation
- They expect others to do the day-to-day chores as they feel too important to waste their time on common things.
- If you share workload with them expect to do the lion’s share yourself.
- They love to delegate work or projects and interfere by micro-managing it. If it goes well, they take the credit, if it goes badly they blame the person they delegated it to.
- They exploit others without regard for their feelings or interests. Often the other is in a subservient position where resistance would be difficult or even impossible.
- Strategic use actual (or implied) intimidation to get their way.
- Causes arguments for “effect” not fact: arguing for the sake of arguing. They will cause an argument just to protect themself from a perceived ego threat.
- They rely on words like “integrity” “openness” and “trust,” to deflect requests for proof of their character, eg. “don’t you trust me?”
- They have expert knowledge of the tools and techniques used by other manipulators.
- 6. Lack of empathy or remorse
- Their lack of empathy colours everything they do. They may say, “How are you?” when you meet, but they are working from memory. They are not interested in how you really are.
- Their sense of self-importance and lack of empathy means that they will often interrupt the conversations of others.
- 7. Lack of insight and self-awareness
- They very rarely talk about their inner life, for example their memories and dreams.
- They have difficulty showing genuine emotion, so they tend to fake it.
- They do not recognise that they have boundaries and that others are separate and are not extensions of themselves. They see others as only there to meet their needs.
- They seem to have few long-term or deep relationships.
- They consider interpersonal influencers like charm and endearment to be more important than skill based competencies.
Sadly the role models for sales people portrayed in the movies, literature or the media are narrowed down to the sullied stereotype of Sales Narcissist, leaving most people believing that all sales people behave this way, which is not the case at all.
Good sales people hate being stereotyped as charming, manipulative rogues which is why many sales people are reticent to call themselves “sales people”. Sad really, especially when there are so many people who have the potential to be fantastic in sales careers because, unlike their Sales Narcissist cousins, they show genuine regard for others. They listen and are sincerely interested in helping us achieve results or solve problems. In short, they are authentic people who want to do a good job.
What happened to authenticity? The very quality we look for in our very best relationships? I suggest that the “less is more” approach works best, downplaying your capabilities and emphasising your genuine desire to understand another person, remembering the three questions: “Do you see me?” “Do you hear me?” and “Does what I say matter to you?”
It does take skill to help put someone at ease and allow them to feel comfortable genuinely opening up to you with the confidence that you have their interests at heart. Keep it simple and to the point. Show genuine interest by stating your intentions up front, ask questions and actively listen. By verifying what you have heard you will impress more people more often by these specific actions than trotting out the dog and pony show charm fest.
It’s up to the good sales people to demonstrate these behaviours, overshadow the sales narcissists and give sales the good name it deserves.
*BSRP, Wikipedia, Changeminds.org, Winningteams.com
Sue Barrett practices as a coach, advisor, speaker, facilitator, consultant and writer and works across all market segments with her skilful team at BARRETT. Sue and her team take the guess work out of selling and help people from many different careers become aware of their sales capabilities and enable them to take the steps to becoming effective and productive when it comes to selling, sales coaching or sales leadership.To hone your sales skills or learn how to sell go to www.barrett.com.au.