30 August 2011

How to sell like a gentleman.

A guest post from a fellow gentleman:

When you think of gentlemanly professions, I’m sure titles such as Doctor, Teacher & Philanthropist come to mind. But I’d bet my right arm that Salesman didn’t arise. Why? Well this post isn’t about the perception most people have of sales people (if you want to read more on that topic I recommend you read the “Why is SALES such a dirty word?” article I posted on the Top Shelf a couple of months ago). Today is all about what separates the average sales professionals to the great ones.

Since I started my career in sales, some number of years ago, I was amazed at the massive gap between the top performing sales professionals and the bottom ones. It didn’t matter where I went there was always one or two star performers and then there was ‘the rest’. I found this quite peculiar and decided to look deeper into the reasons why this was the case. What I found wasn’t groundbreaking, however it wasn’t what I had first expected. Those that were consistently at the top weren’t necessarily the most experienced or skilled or even the most talented. What I discovered the difference was was the way they carried themselves. Their attitude.

I noticed that when I spoke with and hung around these ‘Top Shelf’ performers I didn’t get the feeling at all that they were ‘sales people’, I got the feeling that were…well… gentleman. Men (& women) who went about everything they did in a great, respectful and integral way. They were always more interested in what those around them had to say and continually went deeper with their conversations, asking questions that made who ever they were talking with feel valued and respected. Whereas when I talked with ‘the rest’ they always seemed rushed, short and vague.

Another subtle characteristic I noticed in these ‘gentleman’ was their quiet sense of modest confidence. They always seemed in control of what they were saying and new exactly where to take the conversation next. After many observations of these conversations I worked out that they almost always followed a particular process/formula. It would go something like this:

Current Situation (CS) > Ideal Future Situation (IFS) > Gaps between CS & IFS (GCI)> Suggest Solution (SS)

i.e. CS + IFS – GCI + SS = WIN

These gentlemen would start with finding out as much as possible about what was happening ‘now’ in their prospects world. By doing this it showed that they where genuinely interested in their prospects business. Then they would have their prospect paint them a picture of how they wanted their business to be, getting them excited about their Ideal Future Situation. Then ask them where they think the Gaps are in getting them from where they are now to where they want to be and if those Gaps are holes that their services/products can fill then it just a matter of saying “Hey, great news!! Those gaps your talking about, we’ve got some great options that will fill them in and have you on that path to achieving that IFS we talked about…”.

Whereas ‘the rest’ would pretty much follow the complete opposite to that formula, something like this: SS + GCI – IFS – CS = LOSS. They would first talk about how great their services/products were (Suggested Solution) and when that would get them no where they would usually say “Ok then, why don’t you tell me your problems are then” (Gaps) which would make the prospect feel uncomfortable and unsure. Then, if they are allowed, they would resort to “Just tell me what you want and I’ll do it” (IFS) and lastly after the prospect has walked out the office unimpressed and frustrated, they’re left there scratching their head wondering what the hell just happened (the Current Situation).

The last difference worth mentioning between the ‘Top Gentleman Sellers’ and “the rest’ was their dress style. You mightn’t think this is a big deal, but trust me most people DO judge a book by its cover. Unlike what I’m sure you’ve heard before where you should dress in an impeccable suit and tie every time you walk out the door, these ‘gentlemen’ sellers would dress more so for the occasion, not for themselves. They would take notice or research how the person dressed with whom they were they were meeting with and if they knew the person was quite casual in their dress sense, then they too would dress quite casual (maybe just slightly better) alternatively if they knew that the person usually dons a full suit, tie and cuffs everywhere they go then they too would do so. It wasn’t so much that they wanted to look good, it was more the fact that they wanted the person they were meeting with feel comfortable.

So in summary here’s the toolbox you’ll need to become a top performing ‘gentleman’ seller:

  1. Ask and Listen. I know this is simple, but just try an make more of a conscious effort to do so. Don’t just take ‘surface’ answers, dig deeper. The big nuggets of gold are always deeper.
  2. Modest Confidence. Confidence comes from planning. Before you meet with a prospect or client plan out how you want the conversation to travel and remember the Gentleman’s Selling Formula: CS + IFS – GCI + SS = WIN
  3. Dress for the occasion not for yourself. Think about who you are meeting with and how they would want to see you.


This post was written by Luke McLeod. Luke is the creator of the Top Shelf Sales Blog, a place that offers ‘Top Shelf’ sales advice. You can also follow him on Twitter @Luke_Mcleod or @topshelfsales.