Modern Day Selling: Sales Professionals Beware: Examining 3 negative selling styles

As a sales professional in the world of retail it is vital to examine your performance and selling style. In order to give your customers the ultimate experience it is important to establish trust, open up the lines of communication and connect with the modern day customer. Being able to do these things well will make your job a lot easier, and you more efficient and effective. Your sales presentation does not have to be a marathon or chess match with your customer. A lot of the old style of sales training, based on sales tactics and manipulation, has led many to a disconnection with their customers. I would like to examine the three negative selling styles that have been created by these concepts and what to watch out for in your sales career.

In retail there are many selling styles and techniques that help define who you are as a sales professional and how your store is perceived in your community. One positive selling style is based on serving while selling, which looks out for the customer’s needs. Another positive style is creating a show-time experience for your customer while selling them. The list could go on and on.

Today I will share with you the three main negative selling styles that can easily appear if you are not careful or paying attention. They are The Look at Me Sales Associate, The Bad Fisherman Sales Associate and The Heart Transplant Sales Associate. If any of these styles are allowed to operate within your store it can impact your store environment in a very negative way. Trust will not be established, the lines of communication will close up and the sales process will become lengthy and long-winded when it does not have to be.

I will start with everyone’s favorite at my seminars - The Look-At-Me Sales Associate. This is the sales associate who is often well educated, very skilled with product knowledge and has the best potential to be somebody great. The main problem that stands in their way to finding great success is themselves. Instead of making the sale all about their customers and meeting their needs, they somehow find a way to talk, talk and talk a little more, until the customer is bored, exhausted and ready to stick a pencil in their ear to make it all go away. We have all witnessed the look-at-me sales associate at work, creating a mixture of comical material, but also a sad story because they just never seem to get it. No matter how many times the store manager or owner discusses their flawed selling style they always resort back to talking too much about their product and themselves.

Here is an example of a look-at-me sales associate at work. The customer comes in and knows exactly what they want. They just want to get in, get out and go on with their day. However, this won’t happen because they have just encountered the look-at-me sales associate. What was supposed to be a quick transaction turns into a marathon of knowledge and overselling. Everything the sales associates shares screams look-at-me. The look-at-me sales associate could care less about what the customer desires. They just want to share everything they know and in their mind they honestly think they are giving amazing service. Many of you may be chuckling right now because almost every store has a look-at-me sales associate. Watching them in action can be very comical because they have absolutely no clue that they are not meeting their customers’ needs.

Of course product knowledge is very important and sometimes needed in your sales presentation. I am 100% for superior knowledge of your product. The modern day customer is often well educated when they arrive in your store these days and product knowledge is not as needed as it once was. The best way to describe product knowledge is like that one bullet in Barney’s gun on The Andy Griffith Show. Many times you never need to use it, but it is always nice to have around when it is needed.

Another trait of the look-at-me sales associate is the need to one-up their customer on a story. For example, a customer comes in and shares a story about their first trip to the Bahamas. A normal sales associate would use the “AMMO” skill that I designed - “Acknowledge, Motivate and Move-On!” Instead the look-at-me sales associate goes straight into their own story about their trip to the Bahamas, or an even better trip to one-up their customer’s story. The sale just became all about them and less about their customer. Again it screams - Look at Me!

The next negative selling style is the Bad Fisherman Sales Associate. In fishing there are three main ingredients to finding success. The right location, the right equipment and the right bait. This would be equivalent in sales to your selling style, product knowledge and selling skills. If you take any one of these three things away, your selling/fishing experience will not be a good one. In the past, sales tactic-based training was the perfect bait for retail sales associates to find success in sales. Customers would gobble it up and come back for more.

Then things all began to change. The sales tactic trainings became fueled by greed which led to a disconnection between sales associate and their customers. The customer had an awakening and became more aware of the greedy sales tactics being used on them. They no longer desired the bait we were using and simply quit biting. This is what led to the birth of Modern Day Selling 3 ½ years ago and has led many to find new avenues to success by serving while selling, creating a show-time experience and looking out for the customer’s best interest. Yet there are still those Bad Fisherman Sales Associates who refuse to change and continue on using the same old bait that is no longer effective.

This story from my life illustrates the difference between the Elite Sales Associate and the Bad Fisherman Sales Associate as it relates to sales and fishing:

A few years back my son and I went on a camping trip and had plans to do a lot of fishing. We stayed at a state park known for great fishing. The day we arrived I brought some night crawler worms that I had used to catch a ton of fish as a child. After almost four hours of fishing and only one nibble we both became frustrated and went back to the cabin for lunch. In a twist-of-fate we noticed a journal in the cabin and began to read entries from families who had previously stayed there. The second entry caught my interest as the family shared that they caught a lot of big catfish using pieces of hot dogs. The next entry from another family was confirmation that hot dog pieces were the new bait of choice. Within 5 minutes of using the new bait my son caught a six pound catfish, and it was the first of many. Using the right bait totally changed our fishing experience from boring to exciting.

Since I began to share my story of success in Modern Day Selling I have enjoyed hearing success stories from stores and sales associates who have turned their focus and attention back towards meeting their customers’ needs and looking out for their best interest. Being able to reconnect with their customers by establishing trust and opening up the lines of communication was a game-changer. However, there are still those bad fisherman sales associates who show up to work using the same old bait and are getting the same old results.

Finally, there is the Heart Transplant Sales Associate. We all know that the customer is the heart of our business. Without our precious customers we would simply cease to exist. Just like the body could not survive without the heart, we must always remember that without our customers we are dead. However, the modern day retail world has become full of many stresses and demands that can easily take our attention away from serving our customers. As a sales associate in the jewelry industry I am responsible for many different things, from taking in repairs, placing special orders, doing daily chores, finding time to learn new things/train and the list goes on and on. All of these are a form of service for my customers and are very important, but can distract you from the customer who is just walking into your store. Never before in my 20-year career have I had more things to manage as a sales professional and make sure they are done correctly.

In this day and age its so easy to focus on all the small trivial things that we can sometimes forget about the customer who is standing right in front of us. Have you ever been so focused on keying in a repair, or calling in a special order that a customer slipped in unnoticed and was waiting? Even worse, have you been so focused on getting something trivial done that you purposely ignore the customer in front of you hoping someone else will take care of them? In my seminars I call it the death stare. This is where the sales associates stares at the computer screen as if they are busy until someone else comes and helps the customer. It always gets a good laugh because people see it happen way too much.

Or how about the sales associate who picks up the phone and acts like they are busy. This really does happen! Lets face it, we are all guilty of some of these at some point in time. I kind of relate it to someone who is having a heart attack and paper cut at the same time. The common reaction would be to treat the heart first and then deal with the paper cut later. Instead many sales associates choose to treat the paper cut first and ignore the main issue of the heart attack. It sounds so silly in these terms, but that is exactly what many people do in retail sales.

In closing, I hope that examining these negative selling styles will help keep you focused and on target to offering your customers the best service available. I encourage you owners and managers to share this with your staff in a morning meeting. If you open it up for discussion, you will be amazed at how quickly your leaders will point out situations and instances where these things happen. It forces those who are the culprits to take notice and fix the problem because everyone is watching now that a light has been shed on the problem. There is a greater depth to each section and I strongly encourage you to visit my website to view the articles that relate to this subject.

As always if you know anyone who could benefit from this insight please pay-it-forward (especially to the look-at-me sales associate :).

Brian Barfield is a two-time published author, worldwide, who specializes in offering fresh new insight in retail sales training. Modern Day Selling offers a unique perspective in teaching sales associates how to reconnect with their customers and how to achieve greater success in their sales career. For more information please visit his website Brian also offers in-store sales training and seminars and can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.