Are You Proud to Be Called a Salesperson, or Does the Term Shame You?

Robert Terson

Once upon a time, Nicki and I went looking at exercise equipment. I was experiencing sciatica in my left leg (I didn’t know it at the time, but it was caused by a synovial cyst pressing on the nerve between L4 and L5; after an MRI revealed the problem, microsurgery provided the cure), was getting physical therapy treatments at the hospital, and needed to purchase an item for my home exercises. We went to a number of places, including two sports-equipment stores, finally found what I needed at a top-of-the-line exercise-equipment store on Golf Road in Schaumburg. There was only one salesperson in the store—a tall, lanky young man in his 30s. It took only a few minutes for me to realize I was in the presence of a real pro; I thought he was a terrific salesperson for the following reasons:

  • He was incredibly knowledgeable about every product in the store; the man knew his stuff.  He answered every question like the late Ted Williams talking about the fine points of hitting a baseball; it was impressive
  • He asked a number of excellent questions directly related to my condition; he wasn’t about to proceed without getting the information he needed to do his job properly
  • When I asked about a $2,000 piece of equipment (a similar piece of equipment I was using during my sessions at the hospital), he smiled, extolled its virtues, then told me a $15.00 exercise rope would do the job for me for a heck of a lot less money. He wasn’t interested in selling me something he didn’t think was in my best interest. He was far more interested in establishing a long-term relationship with us than making a specific high-dollar-amount sale.

I was so impressed with him that I told him I thought he was a fabulous salesperson, one of the best I ever had encountered. This seemed to take him aback, flustered him somewhat. He said, “I don’t like to think of myself as a salesman; I’m just here to help people, help them get the right equipment to fit their needs. I really don’t want to “sell” anyone anything, you know?” The man was actually embarrassed; he didn’t want to be thought of as a salesperson, didn’t want the compliment I was paying him. The word “salesman” had shameful negative connotations to him.

I spent the next 15 minutes talking to him about professional selling, trying to convince him why he should be proud of his talents, why he should be proud to be called a salesperson, why the negative connotations he felt so deeply were inappropriate.

He’s not the first salesperson I’ve talked to about this subject and he won’t be the last. There are millions of people out there who feel the same way, experience the same negative connotations about the word salesperson, about selling in general. Perhaps you’re one of them. Perhaps you’re one of them even without realizing it.  If so, it’s time to change your attitude, reframe your thinking. Nothing happens until someone sells something! You’re an engineer of commerce! You’re helping people get what they want and need.

You’re entitled to be proud of that!

Be proud of that!


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