How selling can be an act of kindness

How selling can be an act of kindness

Since I started Barrett in January 1995, I have met thousands and thousands of salespeople and sales leaders.

I can tell you many stories about these encounters. The one thing I can say for sure is that the motivation driving the vast majority of these sales and service people and sales leaders is the desire to help people, their clients, be successful and do the right thing by them.

Very few people that I have met want to harm or take undue advantage of others, even when pressed to meet targets and hit budgets. Instead many people are motivated by the desire to help others, especially salespeople. Many enjoy identifying and fixing problems, helping people out of a tight fix, co-creating and discovering new opportunities. It is a thrill for many of us in sales when a client tells us how grateful they are for our help in sorting out an issue for them.  

Sometimes we can overshoot the runway and try to help others when we were not welcome to do so; however, our intentions to help are usually honourable.

So are we biologically driven to help others? Is it in our genes to be helpful, to be kind?

Well here are some of the interesting findings from a social psychology program:

Helping behavior in humans is a result of a naturally selected predisposition that is activated and influenced by cognitive and social processes. There are two motives for helping: our desires for mastery and concrete rewards, and connectedness with others.

This makes a lot of sense when applied to sales and service roles. 

Evolutionary principles suggest that some forms of helping, such as reciprocal helping or helping kin, have been naturally selected because they increase survival. In humans, however, cognitive and social processes mediate such biologically driven helping.

Help may be motivated by perceived rewards for the helper, or deterred by perceived costs or risks. These rewards and risks can be emotional: People sometimes help to alleviate their own distress at the victim’s suffering, reflecting egoism. People are often motivated by a feeling of empathy to relieve another’s suffering, reflecting altruism, because it is not motivated by even indirect or emotional rewards for the helper. In a social dilemma, rewards for each individual are in direct conflict with what is best for the group. However, people can be motivated by feelings of group connectedness to act for the good of the group. When group identification increases commitment to shared goals and norms, social dilemmas can be successfully resolved.

This is very interesting as we see the transition from transactional selling and ego-driven, self-serving financial reward systems to a more complex solutions sales environment with lead team sales approaches and group rewards emerging in the 21st century.

The emotional rewards of helping

As we know, helping others gives us a good feeling. As salespeople we know the wonderful feeling of winning a new sale or client and the satisfaction of receiving wonderful feedback from clients. Helping also helps us to get and keep our good moods and can also allow us to escape from a bad mood. Helping also allows those being helped to succeed, be more effective, etc, and build a sense of connectedness and trust with the helper.

In helping others, we also help ourselves.

Therefore, what I can conclude is that it is in our intentions then that selling can either be an act of kindness or not .

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is founder and CEO of and and has written 21 e-books and 500+ articles on the world of 21st century selling.


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