Ashamed of being in sales

Many people shy away from selling as a career. Whether they are conscious of it or not, they don’t like how selling has been “sold” to them. I don’t blame them.

  • Need you daily fix of self-help tapes/CDs or guru books to get you pepped up to sell.
  • Have a fragile positivism about sales, which bursts at the slightest criticism.
  • Can’t wait to get out of sales to get a “real” job.
  • Secretly ashamed of being in a sales career – this isn’t what I should be doing, my mother wants me to be a dentist.
  • Fear the loss of approval of your friends, family or peers because you think they will think less of you if you are in sales.
  • Don’t like being called a sales person – prefer titles like marketing consultant or pre-need counsellor (yes, this one is for real).
  • Other departments, friends or family deride your career choice in sales.


Sound familiar?

Over the years I have met many sales people who are really good at selling, have all the ingredients, write great sales results and are highly valued by their companies, yet they never feel satisfied in their sales career. The afflicted sales person just feels a sense of unease and guilt about being in sales, a disquiet that never seems to get resolved.


Imagine waking up everyday feeling ashamed about what you do and carrying that unresolved guilt with you wherever you go. It’s exhausting. Often times it sits beneath the level of conscious awareness, silently gnawing away at your confidence, your feeling of worthiness, until one day you can’t take it anymore.


Always looking for greener pastures as a way to resolve this feeling, sales people afflicted with this issue often quit highly successful sales careers to go into management roles or something else that doesn’t require selling. And no one even questions why.


Many settle for something beneath their abilities and some go into management or worse still – sales management or sales training. What hasn’t changed is that they still carry this unresolved issue with them.


Then they often unwittingly pass it on to their unsuspecting peers with comments and negative attitudes towards sales. If in sales management or sales training, their sales team cop comments like “Oh we don’t call ourselves sales people here”, or “We don’t have to sell – we consult”, as well as “The product sells itself”, “All sales people are pushy and rude and we aren’t like that here, are we?”, etc.


This then perpetuates the whole cycle again by instilling mistaken beliefs about selling and creating doubt and shame about sales in a whole new group of people. And still no-one questions why? Just go into some professional services firms or non-sales departments of business and listen to how they deride sales and sales people.


What are their criticisms based on? Why do many people still hold a negative view of selling? Do they know what good selling actually is? Are they basing their view of selling on bad business practices? How did people develop poor and misinformed views of selling?


Maybe one reason is that in the 1970s, 1980s and early to mid 1990s, many sales teams were trained to be either:

  • Aggressive and adversarial in their negotiations with clients leaving people feeling battered and worn-out in the process to get product or service.
  • Very product focused – “show up and throw up” sales approach.
  • Soft and insipid, basing their sales efforts on mateship or special deals (often bribery) which usually resulted in a loss for the business they represented.


Or another reason may be the persistent myths about the tricks and secrets to sales success touted by so called “sales gurus” who teach people how to get sales at your client’s expense.


No wonder many people shy away from selling as a career. Whether they are conscious of it or not, they don’t like how selling has been “sold” to them. I don’t blame them.


I have spent much of my professional career helping people rearrange their thinking and understanding about what good selling actually is. Techniques of manipulation and intimidation, stimulus response selling and rapport alone do not work and never have for long-term sustainable client relationships.


Relationships do not work or last if they are forced or coerced.


I think “selling” needs a PR makeover. Old selling mythology needs to be superseded by a more accurate view of what good selling actually is. Check the view of selling as defined below and see how it sits with your belief system and values. How does it resonate with you?


View of selling

You have a view of selling that is positive because selling helps sales people and companies understand and identify what their customers’ needs are, then helps them fill their needs in an ethical and professional manner and allows for profitable ongoing business relationships.


Whether you have the skills or not to sell, you shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed of what good selling actually is. Remember: Everyone lives by selling something.


Done well, sales is an honourable career we can’t do without.


We all know people want to buy from people they trust! They always have and they always will, if they can. In fact, top performing sales people have always sold based on trust, transparency and doing what they said they would do. And their view of selling was always positive and honourable, despite the prevailing paradigms mentioned above.


If you’re still not sure, check the following implication – to make more money, you have to like sales people, and that sales people are morally and ethically inclined!







Sue Barrett is Managing Director of BARRETT Pty Ltd. Sue is an experienced consultant and trained coach and facilitator. Sue and her team are best known for their work in creating High Performing Sales Teams. Key to their success is working with the whole person and integrating emotional intelligence, skill, knowledge, behaviour, process and strategy via effective training and coaching programs. For more information please go to


For more Sell Like  a Woman blogs, click here.




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