If you have a negative opinion of selling, you are either doing it wrong or you are surrounded by people who are doing it wrong. Long gone should be salespeople perpetuating the smarmy, pushy, all-about-me selling stereotype. Today’s most successful salespeople are 180 degrees the opposite.

Shame on you for being ashamed

I don’t think a week goes by that we don’t have conversations with individuals and/or entire agencies who struggle with their sales identity. Many become physically uncomfortable when we want to discuss the topic. Many will go to extremes to embrace their service side. Many have financial results that reflect this sales aversion.

Yet, how ironic is it that when we ask them their primary goal for the year, it is almost always the amount of new revenue they want/need to write? 🤔

The struggles shouldn’t be real

When someone struggles with a sales identity, it’s a clear indication that they have failed to evolve. They are living in, what needs to be, a past gone era. I get the stigma. Nobody wants to fit the stereotype of a cheesy salesperson (I hope). But those who perpetuate the image of that stereotype are the folks struggling most today.

Today’s selling is no longer about high pressure or slick pitches. Today’s most successful salespeople are educators above all else.

Done correctly, the eventual sale is simply a result. You are being rewarded for identifying a problem and creating a path that leads to it being corrected, to better results for your new client. You make someone else successful first, and then your success follows. Way different from the stereotype, isn’t it?

And, this isn’t just me. Some people WAY smarter than me have already done the ‘splaining.

Stop BS-ing and start challenging

For those of you who have been reading our content for any period of time, you know we are big fans of The Challenger Sale. This must-read book gets down to the business of what makes successful salespeople so successful. While the book identifies five different sales profiles, it, as you’d expect, really focuses in on the Challenger profile – the profile that is BY FAR the most successful.

The book identifies three traits that make the Challengers so successful – Teach, Tailor, and Control.


Rather than selling, Challengers recognize their primary job is to teach. And, they aren’t simply teaching about the features and benefits of a product, they are teaching their prospects about their own businesses and how to be more successful. For benefits advisors, this means helping them be more successful with the HR/benefits part of their business.


In any complex buying decision, there are almost always multiple decision makers and/or influencers. Each of these key people tend to have different roles in the organization and are responsible for protecting different operational areas. This means they have different questions that need to be addressed. Challengers recognize this and are able to speak to these varied concerns.


Challengers control the conversation, but not from a self-serving perspective. They control the conversation so they can better enable the buyer to make the best buying decision.

Teach, tailor, control is a completely different approach from the stereotype of push, bully, and boast.

If you’re not progressing, you are regressing

Several years ago, there was an article in Harvard Business Review discussing the progression salespeople need to embrace in order to add increasing value to the sales conversation. How far have you progressed?

  • Vendor – This is the most commoditized of sales. Vendors win/lose based purely on price and product.
  • Preferred seller – Winning at this level is based on ability to help buyers get the most value out of the commoditized product/service after the sale.
  • Consultant – Takes the time to understand the buyer’s business/circumstances and evaluates their needs before offering a solution.
  • Contributor – Is a student of the prospect’s industry and general market. Contributors help buyers better understand their own situation and make better buying decisions by providing insight into the market in which the buyer is competing.
  • Partner – Is a student of internal, organizational operations. Partners help buyers better understand their own situation and make better buying decisions by providing insight into their own internal operations. Even though the buyer works in their own “space” daily, partners are able to bring a new perspective and help buyers see things they haven’t noticed on their own.

Let’s re-evaluate what it means to be a “sales organization”

So, think back about the traits of Challenger salespeople and read the descriptions of the Contributor and Partner salespeople. Is there any doubt that the most successful, most evolved salespeople have shattered that long-held stereotype?!

Sales, done correctly, is all about self-education first, for the eventual purpose of client education, and for the ultimate purpose of helping them make better buying decisions. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem like anything to shy away from. To me, this seems worthy of celebration and pride.


New Call-to-action 

Photo by lunamarina