Don’t Call Me A Salesman! (…and 5 must skills to have anyway)

Don’t Call Me A Salesman!  (…and 5 must skills to have anyway)

We get it. Used car salesmen apparently tainted the title for all probably soon after the first Model T changed hands! The objection, however, whether it’s salesman, or salesperson to be gender neutral, is an idea that is part of self-image. Not that the objection can’t have merit. Today, you can buy a used car direct from an owner or online so chances are you’ve probably never dealt with a used car salesperson. Still, there’s surely some of the same despised game in that industry even if it’s unfair to paint any industry or job with a broad brush. So why does being identified with selling bother so many people who actually do sell as part, or most, of their job?

Let’s make a bit of a distinction here. Professional sellers, who must prospect, propose and close are generally more comfortable, and even proud of what they do. Yet, even many of them have euphemisms for titles like Account Manager, or Regional Representative. Anything to avoid the dirty word. While the professionals may use other titles for prestige or ego it’s still with a wink and a nod as to what they do. Anyone knows in business, you are what you do! It’s the non-professional sellers that really resist the nomenclature. For them, it is all about an undesirable self-image.

If you are in the service industry and you sell with your job knowledge, say an Electrical Contractor, an Arborist, or an Architect, chances are good that you identify with your field of knowledge most strongly and look down on a sales designation as a degradation of what you do. Why is that? There are stereotypes that we associate with selling and few of them are favorable. The idea of the hard sell or conning people to buy something they don’t really want is pervasive. Your own bad past experience may be an influence. Service professionals have worked long and hard to get their field expertise and in their self-image their product is what they do. Is there anything wrong with that?

Of course there’s nothing wrong with saying, to yourself and others, that you are, say, an Architect. You’ve probably never answered the what do you do question with, “I sell Architecture.” Isn’t it implied that in order to be an Architect you have to have a client and in order to get a client you had to sell your service and have someone buy it? No question, but the Architect, like most service pros, only want to believe their services are bought because of their skill at doing a job, their reputation or integrity. They don’t get work just being good at convincing people to buy. Why is this an issue?

Every business owner knows that they are ultimately a salesperson for their business whether their title is President, Owner, or Master of the Universe. (Just as they also know they may be Custodian, Customer Service Rep, etc.) Their need to sell their product or service is intrinsic but subservient to their role as head honcho. On the other hand many other businesses have professionals who certainly do manage accounts, manage crews and apply their industry expertise to achieve success but the company depends on them to also be the source of new opportunities. Selling skills are critical for success there even if it’s part of the sales process and not end to end prospecting to closing to delivering.

When things go well opportunities do come to you and then you don’t have to “sell” you just “do and bill.” If your referral tree is in full blossom, if your Google Ad Words have wanting prospects in line then your role call of traditional selling behaviors and skills may be limited. Those business are as lucky as they are rare. Most businesses have to rely on selling skills out in the field to find or even convert opportunities to revenue. This needs a fundamental element of selling to be understood, people do business with those that they like and trust. Relationships are obviously the critical aspect to selling whether it is started from a cold call first impression or a years-long legacy of working together. Developing trust, great communication, honesty, integrity…these are the real skills of Sales!

It isn’t important for any business or business owner to have plaques or cards that shout “sales” in a title. What is important for every business owner or Account Manager or Estimator is understanding everyone is part of sales success because there are no accomplishments without first having a sale. Changing the vocabulary is a more than fair trade off if you can get the skills and behaviors of expert selling. Everyone who quotes a job, specs an opportunity or shakes the hand of potential direct or indirect customer should have selling skills to be great at their job and to make the company look good. Those skills are not about smiling bullshitting with a warm handshake and talking people into something they don’t want–absolutely not! What are those skills?


  1. Know how to actively listen
  2. Learn to ask great questions
  3. Develop trust in all relationships
  4. Write contracts not RFPs but don’t prepare any proposal based on assumptions
  5. Have a plan to create, develop and nurture opportunities

Have a staff fully versed and practiced in these skills and you will have an efficient, effective and respected group of people who sell, whatever their “real” job or title.

©2019 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with your SELLING CULTURE or other BUSINESS THERAPY insights contact or follow Tom @TomFoxTrainer, on LinkedIn or at His recent book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.