You’re on show

Selling the ‘sizzle’ just doesn’t cut it anymore. Relevance and co-operation are key; not just to success, but to survival.

You’re on show

Sue Barrett

Today people are looking for honesty and authenticity and do not have time to be misled. They want to work with people who are what they say they are.

People are assessing your every word and action. They are looking beneath the surface and are wanting to see the real you.

Many people are now more wary about companies and sales people making big claims and promises with lots of “sizzle”. They are wary of the “charmers” and the sales people after the “big kill”. 

What they are now looking for is the steak and all that comes with it. What kind of steak is it? How was it grown, prepared and cooked? Where did it come from? Is it grown in an environmentally friendly, humane manner? They no longer want to confuse packaging with substance. They look for evidence at every turn and how you align with the promises you make.

Sales is now getting personal. The spotlight is now squarely on the sales person and the business they represent. Their actions and words are scrutinised every day.

Going (not quite gone) are the days of the “charmers” who try to seduce you into buying something – the term often used in this situation is “getting into bed”. In recent times, I have seen some sales people, salesmen to be precise, usually with more than 20 years sales careers whose whole sales strategy was to seduce people with their charm, designer suits, Tiffany cufflinks and personal flair. Their preference was always for face-to-face meetings – none of this telephone stuff (meaning it is much harder to dazzle you over the phone).

I have even seen them try their “charm” offensive on colleagues and myself in training sessions. But we were having none of it. In fact it was very inappropriate and quite embarrassing – mostly for them.

What we found was that they shied away from acknowledging the relevance of effective selling skills like questioning, active listening, problem solving and so on, and didn’t like being put under the spot light when it to came to participating in competency oriented role plays and validating themselves.

Instead they complained and tried to distract us with their charm again. Some of these men had also found they were in and out of sales jobs more quickly in recent times, with one man having four sales jobs in different companies in the last four years. He was clearly frustrated and was struggling to come to terms that his “charm” strategy wasn’t working anymore. He and others like him hadn’t adapted nor recognised that people want more than the packaging on show; they are wanting substance.

Then there is the overly competitive, self-centred, soloist sales people who want everything for themselves – everyone else, even their peers, are either there to serve them or are competition.

And they want to win and win big. Being on top of everyone else is what they want – but I ask you, at whose expense? They see sales as a sport, more precisely big game fishing or hunting. Customers are “targets”. Getting a sale is referred to as “the kill”. Customers are regarded as objects to be possessed or trophies to be placed in their cabinet, to be shown off and admired (perversely so) like stuffed animal heads on the wall.

Quite frankly, as a customer I do not want to be possessed, or displayed like a trophy, nor do I want to be seduced or charmed into “getting into bed” with someone. I want to be in a productive, effective relationship. Like I said before, I do not have the time to be misled nor do I want to be, nor coersed, bullied or intimidated into buying.

Thank goodness these types are dying (albeit slowly) and making way for a more enlightened, consultative, big picture focused, business oriented, co-operative sales person who is well organised, disciplined, can prospect proactively, is fully aware of their product and business’s value to their customer market, their competitive edge and how to make business work for them and their customers.

They are fit, well-presented, up-to-date, self aware and relevant – and they are not just female. There are more men out there working this way too. I am also noticing a growing trend among younger men who recognise the need to be more integrated as sales people, and people as a whole.

In fact I have had three men this week alone mention this without prompting. What they and others like them recognise is that if we only focus on competition for competition’s sake, or try to seduce people with our charm, we are apt to miss the main point; which is: Without the co-operation and kindness of others we cannot exist.

That is why I am finding more and more people saying they want to work with others (suppliers, partners and customers) in a spirit of co-operation, consultation and respect, not competition or deceit. This personal insight and awareness makes for much better sales people and much better sales results.



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


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