What Type of Sales Pro Are You?

Last Updated Jul 2, 2010 9:44 AM EDT

A while back, I had a fascinating interview with Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D., author of the bestselling books Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion and Influence: Science and Practice. We talked about the principles of influence, but I also got him talk about sales culture, based upon his psychological views of what goes on the business world. He told me there are three types of sales pro:
  • Bunglers. Because they lack sales skills, like the ability to influence buyers, bunglers consistently fumble and miss sales opportunities. Even when they make sales, each opportunity tends to drag on longer than necessary and in many cases, the bungler must bring in the sales manager to actually close the deal.
  • Smugglers. They understand how to influence buyers and use those principles to create artificial goads to the sales process. If a product isn't scarce, a smuggler pretends it's scarce. If reference accounts are lacking, the smuggler makes up a list. Smugglers eventually ruin their own reputation and the reputation of the firms they represent.
  • Detectives. They understand how to influence buyers and take the time and effort to uncover and surface aspects of a sales situation that create influence. They don't need to misrepresent themselves because they know how to bring to bear their own strengths, and the strengths of their company and product, in order to close business.
What's interesting about Cialdini's observation is that it recognizes the power of sales techniques but also that they can be used improperly. I'm reminded of the classic movie "The Music Man" where the sales technique of the main character is perfectly aligned with his prospects needs... except that the product doesn't actually exist.

There is only one tiny difference between the world's most successful con-man and the world's most successful sales pro. That difference? Integrity.