12 Most Annoying Behaviors of Sales People

12 Most Annoying Behaviors of Sales People

Sales people are notorious for being annoying. The telemarketer who interrupts your dinner. The used car salesman that chases you around the lot. The ad guy that breaks through your gatekeeper by indicating that you are really close friends. Sales people from many different industries do countless things that bug us to no end.

I am a sales person. The last thing I want to do is to irritate a customer. I make a living from people who buy things from me. I take no pleasure in alienating them or incentivizing them to avoid me like the plague. Yet, sometimes, I find myself falling into this annoying sales guy role. So here’s what I did…

I contacted a dozen or so customers that I consider myself reasonably close to. I asked them to tell me what they think are the most annoying behaviors of sales people. Below is a list of what I discovered.

1. Not Listening

I have been advised before to ignore what the customer says and go on with your pitch, especially if the customer is raising an objection. If you don’t acknowledge the customer’s concern, I’ve been told, they will forget about it. I completely disagree with this approach. It is a major turn-off to the customer when you ignore them. They want to be heard before they want to be sold in the same way that a patient would want to be heard before being diagnosed. If the customer raises an issue, don’t ignore it; explore it. It will build credibility and show them that you care.

2. Being Dishonest

I’m not just talking about blatant lies. I’m talking about lies of omission. Leaving things out. Dodging issues. Over-promising. When a customer asks, “Why didn’t you tell me about _____?” You say, “You didn’t ask.” Customers can smell dishonesty, and it’s a trust economy. If you don’t have a customer’s trust, you won’t get her money. Just be honest, even if it loses you the deal. The lifetime cost of lying is just too high.

3. Being Impatient

It’s not the sales person’s money, but all too often she thinks she knows when it should be spent. A failure to understand and appreciate a customer’s buying cycle rubs the customer the wrong way. Sometimes, a customer is ready to buy but has cold feet and is just stalling. But don’t make them feel like that’s what they’re doing. Be accommodating. They’ll appreciate it and, sooner or later, will show that appreciation with a purchase.

4. Nagging

Follow-up is one thing. Pestering is another. And it’s true that there is a fine line between the two. It will vary from customer to customer. You’ve got to feel them out. But there’s little worse than for a customer to say that a sales person is harassing her. That’s the kind of sales person people go out of their way to avoid. Never call to “check in” with a prospect. That’s nagging. Always have a reason to call that adds a little more value than, “Are you ready to buy yet?”

5. Being a Know-It-All

Being knowledgeable is a good thing, but it can be taken too far. Some sales people take sadistic pleasure in proving their customers wrong. They’ll smugly contradict a customer in an effort to show how smart they are. Bad move. Sales is not a battle of wits. And customers (at least the ones worth doing business with) are not idiots. Many times, depending on the nature of their businesses, they’ll know more about the products than the sales people selling them.

6. Not Taking “No” for an Answer

Sometimes, no means no. When kids ask repeatedly, “Are we there yet?” Does their incessant questioning ever cause the arrival? No. But sales people often assume that, if they ask for the sale enough times, the customer will magically change their minds. Sometimes, an uncertain customer can be persuaded and a sales person isn’t doing his job if he doesn’t try. However, when a customer has made her decision not to buy, a sales person that keeps asking will only stir up more resentment. Sales people need to learn when no means no and when it means, “convince me.”

7. Not Paying Attention

Looking at your watch. Playing with your smartphone. Entering data into your computer. These things signal to your customer that you aren’t paying attention…and that you don’t care. Customers find unengaged sales people irritating, especially if they are trying to get answers to their questions. Sales people that are dismissive, inattentive, or unconcerned are likely to be forgone in favor of sales people that openly express how much they care about getting the business.

8. Interrupting

The misconception is that good sales people have the gift of gab. I don’t think that is entirely true. People are annoyed when they can’t get a word in. Customers, when confronted with a sales person that won’t stop talking, are often too nice to interrupt the sales person. As a result, the sales person loses out on finding out what the customer wants. Great sales people are great listeners and are able to get their customers to open up. And the never interrupt!

9. Being Too Pushy

Nobody likes a high-pressure salesman. Ask anyone why they dislike a certain sales person and they will likely say that it’s because they are pushy. People love to buy, but they hate being sold. A great sales person doesn’t force-feed the customer but, rather, makes the food smell so good that the customer wants to eat it. They don’t push. They pull. They lead. They entice the customers by giving them good reasons to buy. If they push their customers, though, they can only push them away.

10. Being Inauthentic

Sales people that sound like they’re reading from a script send customers running in the opposite direction. When a sales person is phony, she signals to her customer that she doesn’t really believe anything she is saying. Why, then, should her customer believe her? For a customer, hearing a sales person read from a script is like listening to a computer-generated automated sales pitch. It just isn’t believable and it’s nothing but an interruption. A successful sales person will have a genuine message to share.

11. Being Forgetful

Sales people should take extensive notes, because to forget a customer’s name or a promise that was made to them is death. It signals one of two things: either you don’t care enough about them or you are really lying and are just playing it off as an honest mistake. Document everything! Making a customer repeat herself is a major turn-off. She simply doesn’t have time for your lapses in memory.

12. Asking Leading Questions

Customers know when they’re being worked, and they don’t like it. ______ is important to you, right? Will that be one order or two? People can sense when they’re being lead down a path and it makes them resistant. They’ll say, “No, it actually isn’t important” or “I’m not ready to buy.” Then, it’s just awkward. Great sales people aren’t afraid to ask open-ended questions. What is important to you? How would you like to proceed? Customers are much more comfortable when they feel you are part of their buying process instead of them being part of your selling process.

Is there an over-arching theme to what customers find annoying in sales people? I believe there is.  All of the above items contain one common element that customers find unnerving: self-centeredness.  There is nothing more frustrating for a customer than for a sales person to convey that he is not looking out for her best interests.  Customers don’t care about a sales person’s quota, her commission, or how well-fed her family his.  Customers care about themselves.  They aren’t donating; they are purchasing. Therefore, they expect sales people to look out for their best interests.

We can argue all we want that sales people, like all other people, are naturally self-interested. Maximizing profits (or revenue, for the sales person) is the name of the game.  But profits are the end; not the means.  When it’s all said and done, sales people may really just want the commission.  But they aren’t going to sell anything thinking in that way.  While self-interest may be the reality, it is not practical.  Only sales people who are deeply interested in the success of their customers can truly be successful in today’s marketplace.

Are you involved in sales?  It may be refreshing for you to stop and think about how annoying you are.  Are you a bother to your customers or an asset to them?  It’s a highly competitive marketplace. If you are viewed as a hassle to deal with, you probably won’t stand a chance with your prospects.  Customers simply don’t have the time to be annoyed!  Step into your customer’s shoes.  Would you even like dealing with you?
We’re all buyers in one form or another.  I would be interested in hearing what others find annoying in sales people.  What do you think?

Featured image courtesy of Vagabond Shutterbug via Creative Commons

Doug Rice

http://www.douglaserice.com

Douglas E. Rice is a marketer, writer, and researcher who blogs regularly. He is the author of The Curiosity Manifesto, a provocative guide to learning new things and keeping an open mind.

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42 comments
guest
guest

I am on an academic team with a brash, overbearing, know-it-all sales person. The sales person has automatically assumed the role of "managing" the team and posing ideas as "options," which are really nothing more than thinly veiled directives. They always seem to get their way, going round and round in "communication" circles to make someone else's idea seem illogical (at best) or absurd (at worst). Therefore, it has thus far proven futile to engage in any logical conversation. The rest of the team mostly just quietly sits there and accepts whatever the sales person says. I have a lot of business experience (far more than the sales person) that tells me that much of what the sales person says is not good business (or otherwise) advice. Therefore I end up being the only one that speaks up. The sales person enjoys (literally, smirks and all) making it appear that I am arguing for the sake of arguing, being non-compliant, and just wanting to waste everyone's time. This is not the case. I only broach subjects that either matter a great deal, or that I am directly asked about. Again, everyone else seems to sit back and just agree with whatever the sales person is saying. This is beyond frustrating. Advice?! 

EdCrown
EdCrown

I am a veteran sales person who has made many mistakes in learning.   In 2013, consumers are generally just as knowledgeable, if not more so than the salesperson.  You simply cannot force a sale.  You will only frustrate the prospect as well as yourself.   Sales people are taught to build a relationship because if they cannot trust you, they will not buy from the company.  Many people force these conversations to try and build a connection--and it comes off that way--contrived, phony and it becomes counterproductive.  If you come off as fake, you might as well just cross that prospect of your follow up list.  The prospect may ask themselves why is this person wasting my time; I'm too busy for this.  There is a natural way to do this, but the opportunity must present itself to you.  The only way to successfully sell in todays market and economic conditions is to provide a solution to a problem.  Consultative selling is about pointing out a need and creating a sense of urgency from a prospect.  But this must be truthful consultation, where you lead a prospect to the benefits of your product and service.  People tend to sell on features of a service/product and not benefits.   Ask open-ended questions. People love to talk. Good salespeople listen because the more a prospect talks the clearer  the picture you will get in determining the true needs and motivation is.   Basic tip: When you are at a face to face sales meeting--when your prospect rolls their chair back and perhaps closes their planner--that's when you need to get up and thank them for their time. End the meeting by asking for the next step in the process.

Eva_fate
Eva_fate

I usually find it most annoying when sales people are overly friendly. I don't know how to define this, but many sales people seem desperate to create a connection between you and them- they will ask if you know someone else with the same last name as you, or if you went to (x) high school and know someone they know who went there, or if you're doing anything fun for the holidays or whatever. To me, this just feels fake, like the salesperson is trying really hard to MAKE me trust them because we have something in common. The truth is, when I go to make a purchase, I pretty much just want someone who is knowledgeable about the product I'm buying and will help me select something that will fit my needs and not cost me more than I'm willing to spend. I don't care if you have 3 kids or if we went to the same high school, I care if you know a lot about the product you're selling and will be able to answer my questions.

wadvisor
wadvisor

Some great stuff Doug,

As we talked about in our previous post, 12 most likely signs you never had the sale, we hear this all the time when customers are not heard (VERY ANNOYING). I will give you a specific example which hits home your #1 (something that happened to me just the other day). Our payroll company calls me up (we have a dedicated account manager so someone different) and leaves me a voicemail. I called back and instructed the guy (twice) not to call me back UNLESS it is an emergency (also on his voicemail). Emergency from a payroll perspective could be, we missed some paperwork and are close to a coming deadline, etc etc. Despite this call not being urgent, he STILL decides to call me and pitch me something I did not need. I actually gave him 2 clues and he missed both of them. If he only knew who he was talking to. I will be posting a vlog about it shortly. If he had listened, the sale could have happened (notice the COULD) :)

Great list. People have to practice this stuff regularly.

Thanks for pointing them out!

Marcrates
Marcrates

Sales used to be about believing in something, and conveying that to others in a genuine way. Unfortunately, companies have tried to systemize it to such a point that all the "human" has been sucked out of it. Sales people are so inundated with trying to follow their company's cold, cookie cutter formulas designed to squeeze every penny out of the consumer RIGHT NOW, that they can't do what it takes to make a genuine connection with people and build long term relationships.

I have been in sales for 7 years. Don't get me started on ethics...

dougridley
dougridley

Maybe the term salesman needs to deleted from our lexicon. With our growing understanding of service, communication, and consumer needs, the term has a stigma that it may never be free from.

DaveKerpen
DaveKerpen

Great job. Bad salespeople do such a disservice to good ones.

KRLRose
KRLRose

Everything I know about business I learned through being able to sell effectively. And every single one of the points in this article is absolutely true. This is a succinct 12 point manifesto that can provide real value for anybody new to sales and some old hats too :) I guarantee if you adopt the strategies outlined here. You will be extremely successful at selling.

Great article.

Tim Maher
Tim Maher

Thanks Doug, very well written. As a rookie sales guy, I will certainly take these points to heart (i.e hey sales guy, shut the heck up and listen to your prospect.) Well done Sir.

digitalreaction
digitalreaction

This is so true, my skin crawled reading it... The best form of sales is non-sales!

BrettC
BrettC

Very weird--how did the Brett below show up on my computer as the default profile on lifefyre. I apologize for entering my comment under that Brett's name and have no clue how that happened!

What's funny is that when I'm on the ball with my organization and keeping to my schedule and task list, I end up being way too attentive on my clients or prospects. It's almost like being disorganized with overflowing inboxes builds in just the right amount of time between contacts. Heck, it's insurance. How many people want to hear from their insurance agent all that often?

Brett
Brett

What's funny is that when I'm on the ball with my organization and keeping to my schedule and task list, I end up being way too attentive on my clients or prospects. It's almost like being disorganized with overflowing inboxes builds in just the right amount of time between contacts. Heck, it's insurance. How many people want to hear from their insurance agent all that often?

RashidulKader
RashidulKader

As far as my annoying habits as a salesperson goes, I think I might be guilty of not paying attention, but that's about it. I used to work at a retail store selling video games. I remember that most of the regulars would come into the store specifically to see me and talk to me about games. I think part of what made me so successful in that position is that I got to know my customers over time. I learned what their tastes were and knew exactly what to recommend, with reasonable certainty that they would like it. More often than not, they would be happy with my choice.

What I'm getting at is that a lot of salespeople might fall into a habit of not taking the time to get to know their customers. Personally, I would trust a salesperson that treats me more like a friend, and not commission.

markashfield
markashfield

@tedrubin integrity should be the watchword for salespeople. Too many think that it comes at the expense of the bottom line.

MZazeela
MZazeela

@cynthiaschames @12most You would think that most of us would get it. Sadly, many of us don't. I often wonder how some still have jobs?

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV

#1 Guarantees you failure in the sales profession.

But I agree with you Doug. These are all pretty annoying.

douglaserice
douglaserice

@wadvisor thanks for your comment. I think there's a perception among sales people (or more often sales managers) that, if you nag the customer enough, they will give in. Also, when prospects are nice about rejection(don't call unless it's an emergency), sales people take it as a buying signal and push even harder. You're right, when it's all said and done, it boils down to #1: not listening. The fact is that many sales people are taught to ignore the prospect and keep pushing for the sale. It's a shame that so many sales people think prospects are gullible enough to fall for such tactics.

douglaserice
douglaserice

@Marcrates you are absolutely right. I don't think most sales people engage in these behaviors because they think that they should. Most are probably just doing what they're told. I just read a book on the history of sales, in which the author writes quite a bit about sales being systemitized throughout history. I too think that sales has lost some of it's humanity. Sales is an art and, if it is a science, then the sales person should be the scientist rather than the guinea pig.

douglaserice
douglaserice

@dougridley I have heard of more and more sales people referring to themselves as consultants, partners, etc. It is better branding, considering the negative associations buyers have with the term, "selling." In addition to that, I think it's important for sales people to no become ashamed of what they do. I believe firmly that selling makes the world go around. Selling has a profound social impact. Nothing good ever happened without someone pushing it. We have all the advancements, conveniences and luxuries that we do today because sales people somewhere along the line believedcin what did enough to sell it. Society would grow stagnant without people passionate about moving product. It's the sales people that only sell because it's their job or because they think they can't make quick buck that need to be booted from the profession. It is selling without integrity, purpose, or value that needs to be ax-ed. This is the type of selling that is annoying. Whether we change the name or not, we certainly need to change the perception, not just for the good of sales but for the good of society. End rant.

douglaserice
douglaserice

@KRLRose thanks for the comment! I see articles out there all the time about how to be a better sales person, so decided to take the opposite approach in writing an article on how not to be a worse sales person. The responsiveness of my customers to this question I proposed says it all. There are enough sales people out there engaging in stupid behaviors that, if you want to be successful, all you have to do is refrain from doing these things and you'll come out smelling like roses to your customers.

douglaserice
douglaserice

@tim Maher thanks, Tim. I'm a rookie too, brother. It's definitely a fine line we walk between being too pushy and not being aggressive enough. You gotta close and you gotta make your number, but I definitely think it's important to remember that your customer doesn't care about those things. It all starts with the customer's frame of reference. Listen to the customers and they will tell you how to sell them. Thanks for the comment, Tim.

douglaserice
douglaserice

@digitalreaction thanks! I was going for an earth-shattering, paradigm-shifting change in a reader's life, but I guess I'll settle for making your skin crawl ;-)

douglaserice
douglaserice

@BrettC Very interesting observation, Brett! It's actually a pretty good indicator that you aren't generating quality leads and producing results. Only a sales person with nothing better to do has time to bug people. Being annoying signals desperation. A sales person who has built a sustainable pipeline is just to swamped to annoy prospects. When you're busy, you only call on clients that you can really create value for. You don't have time for throwing spaghetti against the wall. I suppose the freedom to be picky is every sales person's dream.

douglaserice
douglaserice

@RashidulKader Hey Rashidul, thanks for the comment! And you bring up an interesting point, I think. A successful sales person can't just not be annoying. A successful sales person also has to proactively draw customers in. You can't just not repel customers; you also have to attract them. Falling into the trap of simply trying not to be annoying can lead to complacency, rendering the sales person ineffective in assisting the customer. Don't just fail to makevthe customer mad; make the customer happy. Building trust, as you've mentioned, is perhaps the best way to do that.

douglaserice
douglaserice

@danielnewmanUV Thanks, Dan. Yeah, active listening is preached so much that it's almost cliche. But, when it comes down to it, I think it's still something sales people struggle with when they have an agenda they're anxious to talk about.

wadvisor
wadvisor

@douglaserice Whats interesting about his call was a lack of specialization even though the nature of his call should have been done by a specialist. He had no idea who he was talking to and made no attempt to find about me on whether I should be using anything that he is bringing up. He assumed I need tax deferral and had no idea that I know more about the pension code, tax law and estate planning than him and his entire company put together. He probably attended one of my many seminars but just did not recognize my name. Its sad to see that sales targets get in the way of having a human conversation. As I mentioned before, I gave him 2 clues to see how he reacts. He had no idea I have trained sales people all my life (how would he know since he never asked). I also knew he would call me back (so I could have ignored his first call) but yet it was another attempt of mine to see if he had anything interesting to give me. Maybe I could learn something new from him. Have a great weekend.

BrettC
BrettC

@douglaserice Dang--down for the count. I appreciate the comment. Good cause for some reflection.

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