Sales People

Pretty Painted Machine


Perfect new paint shines
covers your body like silk
sheets pulled perfectly tight
across a lovely queen bed.
The scent of new glistens
where leather skin stretches
taught across seat-backs
and arms. You could be held
by a graying lover or a fresh-
faced man-child out for
a first fast ride. You
like the cool room
of glass windows, waxed tile;
equally like the heat
of street and pavement waiting
outside for your display. You
acquiesce easily, push a button,
turn a key, roll forward.
Never complaining about
what you didn’t become
unaware of what you are …
pretty painted machine without

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“Emotional Contagion” on the Sales Floor


Did you ever have a Manager tell you to stay away from the “poison” on the sales floor? Or maybe you heard, “Don’t allow negative people to make you negative too?” As any Sales Manager can tell you – negativity breeds negativity, and it is one of the most insidious problems with any sales team.

A guy comes to work in a bad mood, hates his life, his wife, and his job. He tells his pals how bad he feels, how horrible everything is (usually the worst being his wife and/or his Sales Manager). Suddenly, one person’s negative attitude is multiplied across eight other people. No one is selling cars and no money is being made — primarily due to the bad attitude winding through the sales force. One person that feels unhappy now makes eight other people feel unhappy. Psychologists call this phenomenon “Emotional Contagion.” 

There’s a wonderful article over at Scientific American about Emotional Contagion:

[Emotional Contagion] is a three-step process through which one person’s feelings transfer to another person.

The first stage involves nonconscious mimicry, during which individuals subtly copy one another’s nonverbal cues, including posture, facial expressions and movements. In effect, seeing my frown makes you more likely to frown.

People may then experience a feedback stage–because you frowned, you now feel sad.

During the final contagion stage, individuals share their experiences until their emotions and behaviors become synchronized. Thus, when you encounter a co-worker on a bad day, you may unknowingly pick up your colleague’s nonverbal behaviors and begin to morph into an unhappy state.

Mimicry is not all bad, however; a person can also adopt a friend or colleague’s good mood, which can help enhance their bond. (continue reading)

Salespeople and Managers need to be aware of the nonverbal ques and unconscious mimicry that occurs between groups of people. This is especially necessary when considering the sales team and the customers. If someone is going to catch a mood from us, let’s try to make it a good and happy one! ~


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Sales Meeting Retrospective

For every sale you miss because you’re too enthusiastic, you will miss a hundred because you’re not enthusiastic enough.  -Zig Ziglar

I attended my first sales meeting in a small warehouse location where we loaded our cars with merchandise and went out around town trying to sell everything by 7:00 pm. I was hired after a quick ad response and an even quicker interview.

Arriving early on my first day of work, I watched as a groggy, sloppily-dressed group of guys drifted in over the next 15 minutes. Most were silent and sulky, focused more on their coffee or energy drinks, than anyone around them.

At exactly 9 o’clock we were called into a small office with rows of folding chairs and a whiteboard. Everyone stood as the speaker took his place.

“Good morning crew. How much are we going to sell today?”

“We’re going to sell it all.”



Everyone around me was suddenly alive, smiling, yelling … screaming, hand-slapping high-fives, and hooraying like I’d never seen! They were going to sell it ALL and they were going to be LOUD about it!

The chanting lasted  several more minutes while the Sales Manager updated sales on the whiteboard and assigned teams for the day. Then, everyone was dismissed to make their rounds and start selling.

This was my first experience with the culture of sales meetings. It’s a culture that has changed little since the 1950’s. The goal is always to build energy, excitement, and enthusiasm in your sales team — To get everyone stoked so they will go sell EVERYTHING!

The job of salesperson existed long before the 1950’s. There was some formal training available to men as early as the 1870’s and into the 1900’s in the large manufacturing companies.1 Later, the 1930’s ushered in sales trainers like Elmer Wheeler, who coined the well known phrase, “Don’t sell the steak – sell the sizzle!,” and Dale Carnegie with his highly successful book, “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” More companies were trying to improve their sales techniques and training programs while many individuals read Carnegie’s book for self-improvement and the goal of greater profitability.1 (It’s interesting to note that both Wheeler’s saying and Carnegie’s book remain in use today by organizations and their salespeople.)

Sales People did exist earlier than the 1950’s, but it wasn’t until that time that Sales became a Profession and gained some acceptability in social circles. At the same time, Sales Meetings as we know them today were developing into the familiar format still in use: Review goals, apply necessary psychology, push for personal objectives, and get everyone’s energy up and running!

The late 1950’s was a wonderful time in America. The Great Depression was gone and the war was over – life was good! The word “consumer” entered into American language and defined a new generation of people having extra money for things other than necessities. Suddenly, there were extra dollars to be spent and new-fangled items to spend those dollars on. The culture of Sales and Sales Meetings as we know them today was born.

This “culture” was a new sales approach – half psychology-personal development and half motivational-speeches and exercises. These techniques were implemented in enthusiastic sales training and hooray-filled sales meetings across the country – the intent was to reach higher sales goals and to achieve higher profit margins. The amazing new techniques worked perfectly!

High profit was a expected by every business employing a sales force. New training programs, by third party providers, became more common over time. This was especially true in the insurance and automotive industries — consumers welcomed life insurance agents into their home to make a purchase and lined up at flashy new dealerships to buy cars.

The Sales Force (consider the implication in the name for a moment) and the new Sales Meetings were here to stay. Walk into any car dealership in America, not to mention countless other sales rooms, and you’ll likely find a group of screaming people in the training room building motivation and energy for the day ahead. ~


1. Stein, Dave. “The Evolution of Sales Training.” Chief Learning Officer Magazine online. 1,2 (2002).

2. see below for info and link.

Here’s a wonderful, nostalgic FORD Sales and Marketing Film from the 1950’s!

There’s a great post over at Sales Hacker about 1950’s Sales Techniques at A partial list follows below, please see original site for full list and other great posts!

So here for your benefit (and with a slightly nostalgic sigh) is a 1980′s summary of Goldman’s 1950′s sales principles.

1. What you sell is never a product as such but the idea behind the product – that is, the role played by the product in satisfying a customer’s needs. The product is a means, not an end in itself.

2. Every product, if it is to be saleable, must correspond with certain basic human needs. You can arouse and develop needs but you cannot create them.

3. Very few purchases are motivated exclusively by rational considerations.

4. Progressive selling is not the same as high pressure or aggressive selling.

5. Customers do not always buy the highest quality product but they will often buy the product that meets their perceived needs.

Want more information about Sales, Sales Training, and Sales Meetings? (my personal favorite guru)

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The Way I Do It

It’s not what I do, but the way I do it. It’s not what I say, but the way I say it.

Mae West

“It’s impossible to teach people to be you,” my old boss, Mr. K, said to me years ago, “you can teach them to sell, but not to sell like you.”

I had hired two friends, both with over twenty years selling experience in the insurance industry, that I expected to be Super-Star salespeople in the cemetery industry. It made sense to me that the skill-set was similar and transferable. They would be great! I was terribly frustrated and confused when, after several months of training and practice, they still couldn’t sell a single product without my help or intervention. My two friends had the grace to resign before I was forced to write-out pink slips.

I felt that I had failed them somehow, and it was a hard lesson in hiring employees and having preconceived expectations. I thought often about Mr. K’s comments, but it took a few years for me to understand the truth and insight he’d demonstrated that day — he was trying to tell me that I could teach methodology only and not intuitive sensing. I could teach the steps in the process, but not the underlying personal elements in my implementation of the process.

I’m a natural born salesperson…umm, okay…I’m a natural born writer (read that as observer of people and the world around me) which makes reading body language, evaluating tone of voice, and interpreting personality styles a somewhat normal and unconscious process for me. My boss was right – I can’t teach anyone to do that. At best, I can explain body language, personality types, postures, etc. and teach them awareness of those things in themselves and in the customers they meet.

Still, it takes years of practice, and possibly some trauma and habitual hyper-awareness to glean the details I do from customers. Body movement, posture, strength of handshake, tone of voice, choice of words, etc. These all add up to “reading my customer” in a way that gives me an edge in product selection and deal negotiation. It is one of the reasons I’m a “top salesperson” in the country and a tremendously strong “closer.” All the best salespeople I’ve met share this hyper-aware, intuitive ability to “read customers.”

I believe strongly in sales training. And, in my job as Sales Manager, I work diligently to train my people in all aspects of sales and customer relations – this often includes teaching them basic psychology and life skills that they’ve missed along the way. I work hard to build a strong team while encouraging competition among them. One of the most frustrating elements of my job remains the inability to teach them to truly read their customers.

Sadly,  I have come to realize that the lower their ability in this one area, the higher the likelihood that they’ll fail in automotive sales. If they’re unable to enhance their intuitive ability, process various types of information from customers, and evaluate all aspects of their customers “presence” they will be unable to sell cars. Sales is a full-body-emotional-mind experience and the really good salespeople have an ability to understand that and gather and process data on myriad levels during the sale.

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