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How do your prospects feel after sitting across from you in a sales call?

Maybe the answer doesn’t come instantly to you. That’s OK. Here’s another question: Ever been to therapy? Don’t worry, it’s a rhetorical question… but it’s OK if you have. A career in sales can certainly lead to an occasional need for a therapist!

Here’s why I ask. Generally, a therapy session leaves you with stronger memories of how the therapist made you feel than of exactly what she said to you. If at some level you don’t feel good about yourself or your future as a result of the session, you’re unlikely to return to that counselor. Not only that: You will probably associate any negative feelings you have with the person in the other chair!

Wait a minute… this sounds a little like sales. We as salespeople could learn a lot about how to run a sales call from what the most effective counselors, therapists and psychologists learn in their training.

Therapists face a number of interesting challenges that we as salespeople may recognize in attempting to do their job. For instance:

  • “Seeing” and “hearing” the other person’s concerns from their perspective, while avoiding the temptation to “problem solve.”
  • Expressing sincere empathy while remaining emotionally neutral.
  • Asking insightful questions without sounding intrusive.
  • Bringing up painful issues without being seen as the source of the pain.
  • Leading the client to self-discover an answer to their situation without “selling” specific ideas or solutions.

None of this comes automatically. Expert therapists have learned over time when and how to play certain roles to produce certain positive outcomes. In fact, when you consider all the challenges facing both therapists and salespeople, it’s no surprise that David Sandler suggested that a bit of acting might be required for success in selling.

The very best salespeople have taken lessons, whether they realized it or not, from the best psychologists. Here are a few of those lessons, translated for use in sales:

  • The sales call is not about you, your company or your product. That means no presentations or recommendations unless and until you’ve “seen” and “heard” the prospect’s problem… from their perspective.
  • Create rapport that allows you to express genuine empathy while remaining emotionally detached on the inside. That’s a tall order, but you can learn to do it with practice. You won’t serve yourself or your client well by becoming emotionally wrapped up in their situation.
  • Get permission to ask difficult and possibly painful questions. Educate your prospect with questions, not with presentations. When people decide that they want to buy because of the conclusions they reached, they feel ownership of their choice and are less likely to back away from it.

One definition of psychology is: the mental and emotional factors governing a situation or activity. When you think about that definition, you realize that there is a strong connection between selling and the kind of counseling that psychologists and other therapists deliver. Perhaps the first order of business for any salesperson should be to take a close look at psychology!

If, in a sales call, we could stop selling so much and start being a part-time actor and a full-time psychologist, then our prospects would likely feel better during and after the meeting – and who knows, maybe buy something, too!

Learn more about the psychology of sales, here.



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