A 12-Step Program for the Recovering Sales-Hater | Business LockerRoom
Jul 19

A 12-Step Program for the Recovering Sales-Hater

by Kelly Riggs

There are quite a few professions that have a complete aversion to the idea of selling.

Accountants, bankers, engineers, doctors – they generally don’t want to sell. They certainly don’t want to be called salespeople. In fact, they don’t even want their names in the same sentence with the word “selling.”

Let’s just call them what they are: Sales-Haters.

Unfortunately, in the very next breath these same professionals want to know how they can increase business, survive the economy, defeat the competition, and win more projects.


I’m tempted to belly laugh, but I have heard this story so often it is obviously a common issue. While some professionals in the workplace will actually cross the street to avoid the very appearance of a “salesperson,” it’s time to come to grips with the fact that everybody sells.


If you are in business and you need customers, you are in sales. It doesn’t mean you are a ‘down-on-your-luck-and-couldn’t-find-any-other-job’ kind of salesperson. It simply means that you need to persuade customers to purchase your services instead of your competitors.

Welcome to the real world.

So, to help those poor souls who need to recover from their aversion to selling (which is akin to an addiction in some twisted way), I offer my 12-step Program for Recovering Sales-Haters. It is designed for those professionals that need to sell – wait, that’s the bad word – that need to market their services to survive, but hate the thought of being compared to a high school drop-out working at the used car lot (with apologies to Alcoholics Anonymous and other similar organizations).

12-step Program for Recovering Sales-Haters

1. First things first – admit you are a salesperson.

Go ahead, admit it. Say it out loud: “I am a sss-s-s….”

OK, let’s try again: “I am a…..salesperson.”

Well done! You might even record it for those people who would never believe you would stoop to such a confession.

Once you can come to grips with the fact that, just like the rest of us, you need to persuade people to use your services to grow your business, the easier things will be.

[Go ahead, take your time…we’ll wait.]

2. Come to believe that a greater understanding of selling will actually help your business, not hurt it.

Firs, understand that selling is simply the process of, 1) finding a problem that your client desperately needs solved, and 2) providing a cost-effective solution that provides far more value than they are willing to invest to solve the problem.

See? That’s not so hard. Only a few salespeople are actually abrasive, fast-talking, con artists.

Most of us are professionals just like you.

3. Now, make the decision to embrace selling skills as being necessary to sustain your business growth.

Make the decision to improve your selling skills. No, you don’t have to change the title on your business card. And you don’t have to use the word “sales” or “selling” in your conversation.

Just recognize that when you get better at the “s” word, you will win more projects.
And, take comfort in the fact that more customers is a good thing.

4. Make an honest assessment of your current selling skills.

Actually, this probably won’t take long. You have none. Or close to none. Which is natural since you have avoided the very appearance of “salesperson” your entire adult life.

On the other hand, you may find that some of the skills necessary to be successful in selling are some of the same skills you use every day as a professional – asking good questions, listening, analyzing needs, things like that.

See, you’re actually much further along than you think.

5. Admit to yourself, and to other professionals, that you have been wrong all along about selling.

This one will probably take a little longer. In fact, you may have hit a serious snag and may need a full-scale intervention. Try starting with someone you know and trust – a person who, most likely, will not laugh out loud in front of others and embarrass you. Perhaps you can find another “Recovering Salesperson” who understands your plight and start there.

Then, just get it out. “I was wrrrr….”

OK. Not bad. Just keep trying.

You’ll get there.

6. Prepare to remove your damaging and discouraging thoughts about selling.

Repeat after me:  “Selling is not bad. Professional selling is good. I need to sell my services to move my business forward.”


Recover from dizzy spell.

Repeat until you start to believe it.

Remember, only bad salespeople are a bad thing. Professional salespeople provide value to their clients.

And companies without professional salespeople go broke.

7. Humbly ask a qualified and successful sales trainer to assist you in learning necessary sales skills.

Now, we are getting serious! You are getting close to moving your business ahead. You have come to grips with the reality of what selling is all about.

Now, take the next step. Call a professional.

You can even share your previous way of life and how you really despised salespeople. Don’t worry, they will understand. They probably have stories of other recovering sales-haters to share.

And, if you’re not sure who to call, I may know someone.

8. Make a list of all the customers you have missed out on, or lost, because you couldn’t (didn’t know how), or wouldn’t (avoided selling like the plague), employ simple selling skills. Be willing to make amends to them all.

Take an inventory of the customers you have run off because you didn’t know how to sell. The fact is, in your perverse need to avoid “selling” at all costs, you have let them down. You need to think about how you will apologize for failing to adequately serve their needs.

Now, start thinking about the strategies you might employ to renew their interest in your business. Decide to intentionally begin the process of discovering how your services could help their businesses succeed.

9. Make sales calls on as many of those customers as possible.

You know who they are, now go see them.

Here is the key: there is no need to engage in “selling” at all. That is the mistake most amateurs make – and it’s why you probably have a disdain for salespeople in the first place. People start “selling” before they even understand the needs, or the problems, or the attitudes, of the customer.

Instead, just ask questions. Get into a conversation.

You’ll be amazed at what you learn.

P.S. No need to tell them your new attitude about sales. They will pick up on it pretty quickly. And if you’re good at it, not only will they NOT say bad things about you, they may award you a new project!

10. Continue to assess your selling skills. If you need improvement, admit it.

Be strong. This is a never-ending process.

You are only one critic away from going right back to your old habits of denigrating salespeople. Be willing to admit that you will always need to fight to maintain and improve your selling skills.

Move quickly to the next step.

11. Seek to permanently change your attitude about selling.

Surround yourself with other professionals who have embraced professional selling as an essential part of successful businesses.

Buy a book or two about selling.

Consider reading them.

Consider leaving them on your desk where others can see them.

Keep smelling salts close…just in case.

12. Having finally experienced an awakening about selling, endeavor to tell as many other “Recovering Sales-Haters” about your new experiences as you can.

Become an advocate for the (dreaded) “s” word.

Document the improvements in your business and share them with someone else. Give a speech to the Rotary Club. Revel in the fact that your competition probably hates you for making their lives more difficult.

Oh, sure, there will be a few naysayers.

Just take heart in knowing that your business is growing – and probably at their expense.

There you are. Twelve steps to recovery. You are no longer a sales hater!

Business just feels better already, doesn’t it?


About the Author

Kelly Riggs is a business performance coach and founder of the Business LockerRoom. A former national Salesperson of the Year and serial entrepreneur, Kelly is a recognized thought leader in the areas of sales, management leadership, and strategic planning. He serves clients ranging from small, privately held companies to Fortune 500 firms. Kelly has written two books: “1-on-1 Management™: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t” and “Quit Whining and Start SELLING! A Step-by-Step Guide to a Hall of Fame Career in Sales.”