Many people think salespeople are the lowest of the low—the unprincipled people who trick their victims into parting with their money. Everyone knows the stereotype of the used car salesman: pushy, loud, aggressive, deceptive, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer gross-o people. No one wants to be that sort of person—and yet many people assume such behavior is necessary for selling success.

What’s often true is this: We hate selling—and sellers—so much that we can’t grow our own businesses! Are you among those who don’t trust anyone who might have something to sell, because you just know that person will lie, cheat and steal to sell whatever-it-is? And how do you reconcile that attitude with the fact that, as a professional, for your business to be successful—and for your career to move forward—you have to be able to do some selling?

Any bias a person has against selling will limit their success, and is usually completely unnecessary. Successful sellers today understand that the foundation of professional selling efforts (as opposed to “Do you want fries with that?”-type selling) is trust. And they know how to create an atmosphere in which trust can grow. Such an atmosphere has nothing to do with the “pushy salesman stereotype”!

Since all the selling methods, tools and approaches in the world won’t help you much if you have a bias against selling, here are five steps to help you overcome your bias and become a successful salesperson:

1. Understand Where Your Bias Against Selling Comes From

Studies have shown that Americans receive between 3,000 and 7,000 promotional/marketing/advertising messages every day. From TV and radio ads, newspapers, magazines, billboards, words on the sides of buses, junk mail and junk e-mail to the wrappings on the products we buy—if not on the products themselves (think of the Nike “swoosh”)—we are inundated with efforts to sell us something.

On top of that, most people have been burned by offers that sounded too good to be true, and were.

People hate the part of themselves that wants to believe the offers, spends hard-earned money, and then gets taken. Most people have had telemarketing offers that came in, and, while they blew off 99 out of 100 telemarketers, the one that they didn’t blow off turned out to be taking advantage of them.

Salespeople have promised things, and not only not delivered what was promised, but then just disappeared. It’s hard to think of a profession that is trusted less than salespeople—maybe apart from politicians or lawyers.

2. Understand and Accept the Need for Selling

In the context of all those negative feelings, there’s an inescapable fact: for most of us, being successful will require some selling. If you’re going to succeed as an entrepreneur or a business owner, as an accountant or a consultant, as a banker or a hotelier or a scientist, even as an attorney, architect or computer specialist, you’re going to have to find customers. And once you have found those customers, you’re going to have to develop ongoing revenue streams from some of them—or you’ll have to constantly seek out new customers—for your business or practice to be viable.

One truth is: Finding Clients = Selling.

Another truth is: Developing Additional Business with Established Clients = Selling.

3. Clean Up Your Attitude

Selling is a discipline: a body of knowledge, something that can be learned. Remove the emotional loading, the image of a greasy used-car salesman, by replacing it with an image of a helpful, concerned human being. That’s a more accurate picture of today’s successful rainmaker.

Selling is just a way of behaving, a way of structuring conversations to uncover the ways in which you might be helpful to other people, and then making those people aware of the opportunity you represent to them so they can be big boys and girls and decide whether they’d like to take advantage of that opportunity. That’s it!

No pushing, no convincing, no persuading—people hate that. They will persuade themselves. It’s your job simply to be sure your conversation with them goes on long enough for them to see the opportunity you represent to them accurately, so they can decide whether to take advantage of it or not.

4. Learn How to Sell Without Manipulating

The problem is that when called upon to sell, well-intentioned, kind people will often flip themselves into what they think of as “sales mode”—smiling ingratiatingly, pursuing their own agenda, subtly or not-so-subtly pushing for a purchase. They’re so wrapped up in their expectations and goals for the conversation that the prospective client can barely get a word in edgewise!

How to do better? Get clear on your objective for any meeting with a prospect—what will have to happen in this conversation for you to feel that it has been successful—and then turn your attention and all your curiosity toward your prospect, hear him out, and offer to help if you can.

5. Think MORAL

Too often, thanks to media images of salespeople, we think of selling as unprincipled, whatever-it-takes, even spirit-killing work. It’s not. Finding the people who can benefit from what you have to offer, making them aware of that, and offering to help—always being more concerned for their welfare than your profit-sharing, commission or bonus—puts you on a higher plane, a better place from which to operate and feel good about yourself.

While there will always be the pushy car salesman stereotype, that doesn’t have to be the behavior you exhibit as a caring, concerned provider of services. Recognize the opportunities to grow your business and succeed by becoming good at selling—and get your negative attitude out of the way today.

A Harvard MBA, LENANN GARDNER is an internationally known
sales consultant and author of
Got Sales? The Complete Guide to Today’s
Proven Methods for Selling Services, covering the highlights of all the
latest sales-related research and writings. She is a coach, speaker
and trainer for those who sell professional services.