Salesmanship – what is it all about?

Ever wonder how the guy sells 100 cups per day at his makeshift lemonade stall?

Perhaps, he has the boyish looks that charm people like flies.
Maybe his sweet words attract butterflies.

Let me used some hypothetical examples you will see day-to-day:

Insurance Agent

Appear in MRT station – assume you agree to sit at the booth of the insurance company, he starts asking a question about your current policy coverage – what you have, what you don’t.  Then, he goes on introducing his firm’s range of policies

Field Demonstrator

A guy demos the latest vacuum cleaner in an electronic store.  He has a mouthpiece attached to his back. Soon, a group of people looks on and start asking questions.


A drinks promoter starts to introduce the new tea flavour to customers in a supermarket.  She urges customers to try as she starts pouring into a small plastic cup.  Then, she waits for their response.

These examples are able to illustrate the type of salesmanship at the fundamental level – to consumers directly.  Often, the results vary.  Most are taught the way to get people onboard is to dangle freebies first and henceforth translate to sales after the pitch.  It’s not wrong, neither right.  Whatever works right?

Imagine there are twenty look-alike folks who do this daily – and you, as a passer-by get smacked right into them daily with the same execution.

What if there is a different way to sell?

asian books china chinese
Photo by Pixabay on

Let’s use “3 types of Drinks Promoter (tea bags)” in supermarket as an illustration:

a) Fiona regularly gives out samples to anyone who walks by her sampling booth, sometimes trying to target to the right group of people – “please try, it tastes differently.”

b) Dawn eyeballs the right customers to give samples to try. If they don’t ask, she won’t take the first move. After all, there is only a limited amount of samples to give out

c) Michelle tries to strike conversation with customers first. She tries to snuff out whether customer A is a tea or coffee drinker or both and how often they drink. And if he/she likes tea, types of flavour and why. If customer doesn’t feel like talking, she will smile and offer a packet of sample to ask for their opinion.  If they are thirsty and like to try, she will then pour a cup and further interacts deeper, asking quick questions before directing them to buy and point to the counter for purchase

In this context, which type of salesmanship will most likely make a strong impression to a customer?

Pretty obvious – c) is the answer.

Getting to understand the tea/coffee preference of a stranger takes some conversational and listening skills – peppering the intention to sell is there, not obvious but able to lead to a call-to-action – to buy.  This process has to be smooth, not rehearsed. The promoter adopts a flexible approach to pull out the packet of tea bags as and when it’s needed.  Not all are willing to chat much, so the promoter does little small talk, very original and chirpy in an open environment.

Makes someone’s day during grocery shopping isn’t it?

Such salesmanship casts a deeper brand impression, and probably able to get hold of the customer’s contact details or subsequently leads to purchase and future recommendation to others to buy.

Let’s use another example – Insurance Agent, assuming the customer sits at the booth:

a) David does the usual questioning; doesn’t ask more after knowing the customer’s existing policy coverage (medical). He then figure that the customer will need life insurance, so he starts his pitch.

b) Peter decides to find out more about his customer. Her name is Jane. Peter uses her name to be more personal in his conversation. Nothing about the insurance company – he wants to get to know Jane’s life experiences and what she holds “dear” to her, what overall frustrates her in insurance

c) Desmond goes through the list of KYC (know your client) questions that he was taught in-house. After that, he goes on to the next step, subtly introduce and ask question, listen and talk more about the policy. He has memorised the steps taken to get a new client onboard

What type of salesmanship will evoke a stronger response?

It will not necessary lead to an immediate sale but one that builds a starting relationship (and hopefully more referral in future)

The likely answer is b).
Again, there is no right or wrong.

It depends on the vibe and common alignment between both parties.  Usually, an experienced salesperson knows how to tweak his style best suited to a new client.

A recommended rule of thumb is to address a person’s name. Peter users her name to be more personal. This explains why staffs in luxury hotels are trained to remember your name clearly, even though you never meet them before.  You feel warmly welcomed, like a long-time friend just greeted you.  That is good salesmanship.  Another positive key takeaway is to gather intelligence first. Peter wants to snuff out the pain point of Jane, how she feels about insurance and where she thinks is lacking in her coverage.  Therefore, nothing about selling the company’s profile.  That is another technique – being consultative.

That being said, not all has to be consultative.  Selling an outright product requires one to talk about the features and benefits.  The added ingredient is can be humour, to get the customer to laugh, enjoy and eventually buy because this guy is funny.  So yes, another type of salesmanship!


I have used various scenarios to describe the broader definition of salesmanship.  It doesn’t have to be someone whom is extremely handsome or beautiful (well, if he/she is, it’s a bonus!), neither someone who is good at talking (too much blabbering = oversell).

Salesmanship is about how one portrays their position, how one creates an impression to others that lead to a purchase. Adaptability, pragmatic and being sincere are some excellent attributes to undertake to become a slick salesperson.

In my next article, I shall talk about the techniques of successful salesmanship – this includes storytelling.  Watch out for it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s