An Open Letter to Salespeople

Posted February 20, 2014 by Adrienne Asselmeier in Life After Five
This weekend I had two interactions with salespeople that made me think about the profession of sales. I was forced to think about it because I was irritated.

I’d like to think I’m a little more thoughtful than most people. My personality type is that I can usually emotionally connect with people pretty easily, and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. In general, my interactions with people are pleasant. When I shop, I tend to spark up conversations with service staff, salespeople, and so on. Yet, I find myself running into the occasional awful salesperson and I just really want to tell them what they’re doing wrong. Since I don’t think that’d go over too well, I’ll just write about it.

What can be awful about salespeople is not that they are mean or unhelpful.

What makes a sales interaction awful, are one of these things:

  1. Ignorance. There’s no reason to not know your product or service. Sure, it may be something really technical that you wouldn’t actually be able to do, but you absolutely have to know enough to explain it to other people. Just saying to a customer that they need all of their questions answered by another person is not acceptable. If you can’t answer the queries, then why doesn’t the other person just sell for you?
  2. Hovering. Oh man, this one is so creepy. I know sometimes things are slow and sheer boredom will make it so an employee wants to interact with customers, but hovering is a huge turn-off. My husband and I were looked at some pretty mundane household items today and this salesperson seriously approached us three different times in three different aisles to give input. One of those interactions was helpful. The other ones just seemed like loneliness. We ended up wandering out of that area because we weren’t free to do our shopping with our overzealous friend lurking around each corner with unsolicited advice. It’s a good idea to let the customer know you’re available, and maybe approach once to see if they’re still alright, but beyond that, find something else to do. Even just standing around with a smile, straightening items can show that you’re still available and eager to help without literally being right there.
  3. Absence or apathy. Having a question in a store and not being able to find a person to answer your question is super irritating. Worse is when you ask someone who seemingly doesn’t care. I know not every job is a laugh-a-minute high-paying awesomefest, but if you pretend to just be a little interested, you’ll get very far.
  4. Pressure. How is this still a thing? Don’t all salespeople know that high pressure selling is despised by everyone? Are people still taught that this is a good tactic? I walk away from high-pressure sales! I buy things online to avoid it. Yes, it’s that uncomfortable. Another irritating interaction I had lately was when a salesperson for a builder came by my house the other day and conveniently noticed that my old house has old windows, and his company is running some sale on windows. I said that’s not something we want to do now, but we’re new to the house and will be remodeling within the next year or two, so I’d love information that we can use when we go down that road. He wasn’t satisfied with this and wanted to have me set up an appointment with the builder. I said no, but he kept trying. In the end, he did leave me information for later and I did not set an appointment. I was so put-off by the interaction that I threw away the pamphlet he gave me. I would have called them first for a quote when we decide to add a bedroom and bathroom, but now I’ll go down the list of recommendations from my friends.
  5. Insincerity. The worst! The worst of all of them! I was with my grandpa a while ago when we were on a camping trip and his RV got a flat. We went to a tire store and this younger guy, probably near my age, was going on and on to my grandpa about how they “just don’t make them like they used to” and “it’s a shame.” I wish I would have been chewing gum and filing my nails at the time so that I could have really given the best dramatic eye roll possible. Insincerity is the worst.

The good news is that these situations are easily avoidable. Care about people getting the information they need. Know what you sell. Connect with people and let them come to you. I love it when people give me their ten second pitch, leave me with some info that I didn’t know before, and then give me some damned time to think about it and come back to them if I need something. I don’t think I’m alone in how I feel about this either.

I hope that my outside perspective as a consumer and non-sales professional can help others understand how people buy, and what customers need!

About the Author

Adrienne Asselmeier

Adrienne "Dren" Asselmeier is a writer and marketing specialist. Dren has a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature and is a blogger, runner, over-achiever, and friend to everyone. She likes to write about science-based health and fitness, small business ownership, and motivational topics.