Why I Hate Sales Reps


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OK, I don’t hate all sales reps. But now that I’ve got your attention, let me explain.

Sure, selling is one of the most challenging professions around. But then, don’t we all have problems? For example, customer service managers are tasked to provide great service to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, but guess which budget gets cut first.

The budget is instead allocated to marketing campaigns or sales rep commissions, both efforts to push customers to buy. “Just make your numbers” is the marching order given to sales reps, and that’s what they do, no matter how much it hurts.

But, this approach is wearing thin. Customers tune out the thousands of marketing messages shouted at them every day, and avoid sales reps like the plague.

So, why do sales reps have such a bad reputation? Here are the few personal examples of sales behaviors that bug me.

  • Not Listening: A financial services rep has been calling me for the past year or more. Dozens of times. Apparently compensated based on volume of follow-up calls, or a graduate with honors of the “if the customer doesn’t respond, that means keep trying” school of selling.
  • Not Caring: A software rep worked earnestly to win my business (and did a good job of that, I might add), yet never bothered to call to say “thanks” or ask “How is it going?” after the contract was signed. Gee, I guess interest in my problem died down after the commission was booked.
  • Not Trustworthy: A car dealer sales rep committed to a deal, and then, after review with “the boss,” came back to say that they couldn’t honor the price. I felt manipulated, left angry and bought elsewhere.
  • Not Available: A retail rep was nowhere to be found at a major department store, when I needed help finding the right sport coat to fit me, and my budget. After a few minutes of fumbling around, I went to Nordstrom instead. And since.

Maybe these tactics work on other customers, but they annoy me.

It doesn’t have to be this way, says John Holland, co-founder of CustomerCentric Selling. He believes that the problem may be the “generally accepted concept of selling,” where most buyers and sellers define using words like “convincing, persuading, overcoming objections, etc.”

And, he says, “many sales training programs treat buyers as objects to be manipulated into saying yes.”

Holland makes the case that most people prefer to buy instead of being “sold.” I have to agree that’s how I feel about it. Maybe it’s the illusion (delusion?) that we all have to some extent of being in control, or at least appearing to be so. He says a customer-centric definition of selling is: “Asking directed questions to empower buyers to achieve goals, solve problems or satisfy needs and then facilitating the buying process.”

Sounds good, but does it happen? Tune in next week for my blog posting on why I love sales reps, where I’ll give some examples of customer-centric selling in action.


  1. Ollie Lind

    I hope Bob (if I may call you that) is joking when he refers to the ‘norm’ of sales reps being manipulative and pressuring, convincing or any other term to describe what I call the neanderthal approach to selling.

    The people I train are positioned as consultants. What do consultants do? They consult. They ask questions and, above all, they listen. People will tell you all about themselves and their needs if you just give them the chance.

    We subscribe to the philosophy that ‘it’s all about the customer.” All our people strive to “be there” and “be interested, not interesting.” Since the company has adopted this approach sales have steadily risen and there is not one consultant nationally who is underperforming to minimum expectations.

    Customer relationship management, in terms of my company at least, can be summed up in two words. “We Care.” We wear our hearts on our sleeves and are proud of it.

    Funny thing, our customers seem to care too.


    Ollie Lind

  2. Well Then Ollie you are the exception. Though I have seen this in non-commissioned low key sales (retail etc). If commission is involved, its relentless all the way. I could never be good at sales

  3. You are exactly right, salespeople are trained to overcome objections and make the sale, the song of the company may be “the customer comes first” but in reality it’s all about the sale, quota, commission and I am so tired of it! I have been in insurance/investments for the last 10 years and am so sick to death of seeing people in the wrong product just because it was what the salesperson needed to “make his goal/quota” yet on the other side of the coin I have gone above and beyond for existing clients to help with a problem that really makes me no money but hoping to cement a good relationship just to have that client buy online or from someone else because it’s a dollar cheaper! SO I REALLY DO HATE SALES! But it’s all I know, it’s all I am trained to do and with the unemployment being what it is today it’s all I can hope to do. Even the ad on this page is BS! Some of the lowest paid employees are customer service reps!!

  4. I can see from a consumer stand point where it’s frustrating to feel like you are being ignored. I was recently at best buy buying a digital camera and waited forever for someone to help me even though I was the only other person standing there besides this other couple. So undivided attention is very important. However I work in sales and yes it is commission based pay. The fact is at the end of the day the company cares about the customer and that’s why they are always right because they want your business. Don’t expect commissioned sales to go away anytime soon because the truth is the company wants to make money. They need people to help sell thier product, when they want reps to sell more they have to give them an incentive hence the more you sell the more you get paid. That’s why I think it’s unfair for people to say they don’t like sales people the fact is we all have bills to pay and mouths to feed and now that times are harder yes I’m going to try and sell more based on customers needs. No one is perfect at what they do 100% of the time mistakes can happen and yes it important to take ownership of your mistakes. As a sales rep I have just as much of a difficult time with certain people as people seem to have with sales reps. Day to day I deal with people who I call people that want champagne on a water budget. People try to leave outside thier means all time but label me the bad guy because I won’t give them the price they want. People have just as bad attitudes about things as some sales reps. People don’t like to listen and they think they know more about your job than you do. I work in cell phones . And the other day a mother and daughter walked into the store. I walked to the door and greeted them and asked what brought them in I was polite and friendly and I have never met them before at all. The daughter said she was looking to upgrade her phone. I said ok we can take a look at your account and see what’s available. I asked for the cell phone number and the mothers name showed up as the primary account holder. At the store level we are required to see a photo I.d for security. I politely asked to see her I.d and the one she gave me expired 4 years ago I asked if she had something more current she immediately got an attitude and said what does it matter you know what let me find it for you then. So I pulled her account up and saw her daughters line didn’t qualify yet but the other line did. I proceeded to ask some questions a out if they knew about thier upgrade eligibity. As soon as I asked 1 question the mother snapped back with we know that’s want we are trying to do then the mom just stopped and said you know we’ll just go back to Tracy and work with her they both just stormed out of the store. In no way did I deserve to be treated like that I had never met them before how was I supposed to know they had talked to someone or why they came in I asked a question and was treated like I was stupid. That’s the kind of people I don’t want to help I’m just trying to do my job and the rudeness is not necessary. Another thing is that as parents we don’t raise our kids to be spoiled brats meaning we teach them that crying and wining and temper tantrums are the way to get what they want, why are companies training customers to do the same thing? It’s one thing if the company messes up then yes we have to make it right and take responsibility. Customers walk in all the time and ask for one thing free phones. Honestly you get what pay for why would ask for a free phone and expect it to last 5 years then it’s our fault the phone doesn’t work even though u had it for over a year. I’m all for making up for my mistakes but I
    not into giving in especially when if what you are asking for is un realistic and you think a temper tantrum will get it that kind of behavior isn’t excepted anywhere.

  5. All I have to say is that sales people do not produce anything fundamentally useful. The business world has become convinced that they are needed purely based on the status quo. If sales people did not exist at all then they would not be necessary. They reinforce their own existence like a feedback loop. Without them, people would still seek out and buy the products and services that they desire.

    In addition, consumers would be a more educated and be far less likely to buy something they don't want or need. The argument that sales people are necessary to educate people on the products and services is really quite contrary. Surely people should educate themselves on things without relying on someone who would profit from the information given correct? All the sales people here acting as though they are so altruistic and that they are 'a good salesperson' and that 'you just hate bad sales people' are being less than honest. 'Sales' is fundamentally manipulative and dishonest. It's about making money and that's all there is to it. To claim that you are just trying to help and that you really just care is to make yourself the definition of 'conflict of interest'. You are NOT telling the whole story.

    Sales people artificially drive up the cost of goods and services just by their existence alone. It is in their best interest to sell things for the greatest profit possible. If you want to disagree with that then ask yourself where their commission check comes from? It comes from the companies profits off of YOUR SALE! If there were no salesman to pay the cost of your goods would be lower. Don't they always say to take out the middle man? Well distributors aren't the only middleman. Salespeople are middlemen too.

    It's assumed that just because a salesman is attached to a sale that they are responsible for that sale. This is quite often not the case at all but they will tout themselves as being responsible regardless and 'all you sniveling shits would be lost without me!'. Let's say that the customer DOES leave and goes somewhere else. If there are no sales people at the next place to waste their time, they may realize that there was a better value come back. Or a customer that started there would end at your place in the end. Does it really matter? There is a pool of customers and a pool of businesses. If you provide value the people will come to you, if you don't they will not. Just make sure your business has value and you will be fine.

    Then of course you have the salesperson who says 'but they may not buy at all without being persuaded' (or whatever jargon they have for such a notion). If you stop and think about this for a second, they are basically saying 'I am shady and I am gonna suck some money out of this poor schmuck'. Sales people, just by their existence, also make the workplace and the market more dishonest. Sugar coat it all you want but that is exactly whets happening. People in need of convincing aren't ready to buy. When they are ready they will buy. This frame of mind also does not take into account the people that DON'T BUY because they are insulted or don't like being sold to. How much do these two types of consumers offset each other? How much does each come into play? I don't have that answer. But I refuse to justify the existence of the sales person based on the small amount of people that may or may not be sure if they want to buy and need to be convinced.

    Without sales there would be alot of people exploring their options, educating themselves, and making more informed purchases based on value. Prices would go down and people would be in less debt. We would have a more robust economy. The businesses that offer true value would be the ones that survive. This will of course never happen because it requires a paradigm shift that the public at large is not capable of making. In the end I really blame us as consumers for this phenomenon. If we as a group decided that we did not want to deal with salespeople and refused to do so, then they would not exist… period. It is the lazy, uneducated consumer, who is easily manipulated and willing to deal with salespeople that I blame and direct my arguments against. Salespeople exist because of the microclimate that these people create!

    I preach this philosophy and I practice it. I do not engage sales people ever if I can avoid it. I know what I want and I don't need help. I look up wholesale costs. I research the features and make informed decisions. By the time I am ready to buy something I know exactly what model, brand, service, ect.. that I want and where I want to buy it. I suggest you do the same and we can help these sales people find something more productive to do.


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