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How to sell best? Ask someone who buys, of course!

I was e-mailed a question from a woman in purchasing. It was about sales ethics. I usually e-mail back a response, but I was dying to know why someone in purchasing was reading a column on selling skills, so I called her.

“Oh, I’m an avid reader of your column, Jeffrey. Have been for years,” said Anne Danter. “It teaches me about selling, and I face salespeople all day. I want to know what they’re trying to do to me.”

As we talked, I realized she had probably seen and heard every sales-pitch in the book, so I asked her to e-mail me the dumb things that salespeople do, and the smart things that lead to a purchase.

For those just getting into sales, I’ve labeled them smart and dumb so there would be no confusion. None are rocket science — but then again, this ain’t space travel, baby — this is sales. And keep in mind this is only one buyers opinion — but she has the checkbook — and you want the check. Here for your selling treasure are: Anne Danter’s “Smart and Dumb things that affect my buying decision.”

Smart 1. Honesty. Truth at all times and at all costs. Do not lie and think you’ll get away with it, because you won’t. If I can’t tell you’re a liar immediately, I’ll find out in a short period of time. One lie banishes you.

Dumb 1. Telling an expedient lie. We have it in stock (and you don’t). It will be delivered on Thursday (and it isn’t). Or, it’s backordered and you didn’t have the common courtesy to call and tell me in advance.

Smart 2. Give me valuable ideas. If you can make suggestions or ideas on how to make business better, you’ll be a hero to me and a valuable resource.

Dumb 2. Function only as an order-taker. Rush in at the last minute, pressure me about the impending deadline and demand the order now or else.

Smart 3. Understand and be interested in my business. If you make an attempt to show interest and understand, I’ll spend all the time in the world to educate you, because you’ll only be better equipped to help me. Plus, it will make your job easier as well. A win for me — and a bigger win for you.

Dumb 3. Communicating nonsense. Illustrate a lack of understanding and appreciation for my position, my job pressures or what makes sense to me.

Smart 4. Treat me with respect. Be courteous, on time and well mannered. If you’re not, it’s a guaranteed deal-killer.

Dumb 4. Bad manners. Late, interrupt, poor attitude, and the inability to listen, cut off the ink supply to my pen.

Smart 5. Be a decent human being, with some sense of ethics and morals. It makes me feel positive about doing business with you and gives me some reassurance you won’t try to screw me over.

Dumb 5. Schmooze bad about the competition. Talking out of turn about others. It arouses suspicion every time, that either you and/or your product are less than desirable.

Smart 6. Know your own business cold. Know it well enough so that you can make an understandable and knowledgeable presentation and answer my questions about your product or service. Provide good supporting materials — especially testimonials.

Dumb 6. Assume that I know nothing about your business. And then proceed to provide me with misleading and incorrect information. I may appear to be green, but know more than you realize (hint: get to the point and answer my questions directly).

Smart 7. Be friendly and personable. It helps to establish a sense of comfort and trust.

Dumb 7. Failure to attempt to form a relationship. Or worse, be rude, aloof, inscrutable and condescending.

Smart 8. Remember the details. They’re small, but they can completely make my day or ruin it.

Dumb 8. Make a presentation with no copy of your proposal or supporting materials to leave behind. Worse still, your presentation is scattered and disjointed, with no logical flow, making it difficult to comprehend.

Smart 9. Take responsibility. You are my link to your company. Handle what I need seamlessly, and own up to a mistake if you make one.

Dumb 9. Refuse to take responsibility, and shift blame on other people. Don’t keep your promises. It leads me to think you have no integrity or sense of responsibility.

Single smartest. Don’t “sell” me. Let me “buy.” Make me see for myself that “buying” is the right thing to do.

Single dumbest. Manipulate me. Even though I may not be able to figure out exactly how, I (along with most people) can sense when I’m being manipulated. I’ll most likely never be able to trust you, and you won’t have my loyalty, let alone my order.

Thank you, Anne, for a glimpse behind the order desk. You’ve made it a bit clearer what it takes to get the coveted prize.

ATTENTION BUYERS! If you read this and you purchase from salespeople, please tell me about what turns on the ink in your pen — or makes you put it down. America’s salespeople want to know — e-mail salesman@gitomer.com and I will get it personally. Thanks.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail


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