To Sell, Or Not to Sell: 5 Reasons Not to Act Like a Salesperson

Image by Fatih Cilic on

“All the World’s a stage and the men and women are merely players.”

-William Shakespeare

Are you a real salesperson?  If not, could you at least act like one? For customers, we play the passionate, yet in-control, sales consultant.  Over an entire 10-hour workday, we struggle to say the right things, to the right people, at the right time.  If we can just get our message accross, the customers are sure to give in – or so we think. And, at day’s end, like faithful zombies,  we eat, stare at the TV, and wander to bed.  What if we have it all wrong?  What if all our focus on pulling off the perfect, line-by-line, sales pitch is actually hurting us?  Read on and decide for yourself.

Why we feel we must play a role.

As early as the 1700’s, makers of household items like soaps sent independent pitch men to roam the countryside to pray on the ignorance of farmers.  At the time, an aggressive approach paid dividends.  After all, the rural folk had little to no exposure to the wares of traveling salesmen and could be pressured into buying them.  Therefore, as companies began to bring salespeople in-house, they encouraged (even expected) them to act like their high-pressure, high-performing predecessors . And thus, a belief in a “sales personality”came to be.

Despite modern, solution-oriented, empathic sales training, salespeople are still expected to aggressively handle objections and ask for the sale.  When a customer has a concern, we have handy acronyms to feed us our next line.  And if the customer accepts our semi-scripted answer, we go in for the fully-scripted close.  As a result, acting is fully baked into what we do.

Here are five reasons this approach needs to change:

1. Acting prevents us from learning.

If we train like actors for long enough, we also become apt to learn like them. Even the most skilled salespeople can occasionally be seen, in sales meetings, asking other’s to repeat lines they deem effective. Sadly, when we could be armed with additional value for customers, we arrive home poised to put on a play.

2. Acting wastes time for customers and salespeople alike.

Alas, sales thespians, our lives don’t consist of repeatable scenes. When it comes to real life and what people actually say, no script exists. Therefore, even our best attempts to plan calls are doomed to partial success, at best. In reality, over specific words or phrases, we’re better served preparing for the content of a discussion. We can answer many more questions when we don’t need to memorize deliberately phrased answers.

3. When we act out a role, we miss opportunities to sell.

According to scientists, it’s impossible for the human brain to hold more than one conscious thought at a time. Therefore, when our mind is stuck on our script, it cannot take in the customer’s mood and the moment itself. The result? We miss the chance to empathize with clients and solve their problems.

4. We don’t want actors to sell to us, so why should we do it?

Would you rather work with a salesperson who hears what we say, or an actor struggling to stick to a script? The answer is simple, we need to stop acting and start selling. In doing so, we can have direct and candid conversations with our clients and be ourselves. In the place of canned closing techniques, we can ask targeted and specific questions based on what the customer tells us in real time.

5. The direct approach: why it’s hard and why it’s easy.

Shifting away from a script-based selling approach has both immediate challenges and benefits. Without the structure of memorized lines, we can firstly feel exposed, even lost. When listening intently, one cannot plan what to say next. It’s both scary and exciting. Fortunately, compared to memorized sales pitches, unscripted conversations can achieve a much greater depth . They often enable us to find the crucial pieces to closing sales such as hidden objections.

Let’s leave acting to those at the community theater. We have selling to do, and our customers are waiting!