Sales training 101: Do you know how to sell yourself?

John French

Overview :
Customers don’t just buy products or services. They first need to buy into you, the actual sales person. Sales training helps you to sell yourself effectively.

Sales training helps you to sell more effectively

Very rarely is it just about the product or service. Those things don’t usually sell themselves. In many instances, between the product / service and the customer, stands a sales person. And that sales person is the epic “moment of truth” in the sales process. Depending on how sales people carry and manage themselves, and what they project, that moment is make or break for the sale.

A reality check for sales people

Buying is usually an emotional or ego experience. Getting what we want makes up happy and appeases our egos. It is ‘The Pleasure Principle’ at work. And what makes us happy is usually a gut response thing. It’s a knowing. It feeds our emotions and give us satisfaction.

In the 21st century, customers are totally spoilt by the amount of choice they have. There is no longer one General dealership that our grandparents and indeed great grandparents knew. Capitalism has exploded around the globe, and it has been compounded a million times over by the Digital Age.

New consumers are far more savvy than their purchasing predecessors. The modern consumer has digital resources to do their research, and this purchasing homework is usually part of their purchasing process.

Retail research estimates that the average modern consumer is roughly 70% through the sales cycle before they even encounter you, the sales person. They have already been online to check what is available. They have compared suppliers, and indeed prices. So, what makes them decide on one supplier over another?

It stands to reason that when there are similar products and services at similar prices, your experience with, and the likeability of one particular supplier over another usually wins your hard earned bucks. And what makes you to like or choose one supplier over another? It’s their communication skills.

The science behind first impressions

The first step to effective sales pitches is to create an extremely positive first impression. The latest research on first impressions may shock you. Researchers at Princeton University in the United States have found that consumers make judgments about such things as trustworthiness, competence, and likeability within a tenth of a second after seeing a sales person’s face.

In their study, academic researchers Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov found that the participants judged trustworthiness the quickest (within 100 milliseconds). And what is more surprising is that once these snap judgements are made, they usually don’t change. The old adage: “first impressions are lasting ones”, has for once and all been proved to be true.

How can you make a great first impression?

So, how can your sales team ensure that they create that favourable first impression? It all starts with empowering communication skills training. Communication skills training programmes create consciousness and awareness between poor communication habits and effective ones. Sales people can only grow their skills set if they are made aware of the difference between the right and wrong way to approach and engage with clients.

Communication skills instructor led programmes teach sales people the science and dynamics around communication right through the entire sales process. The highest impact point is always the first impression that sales people make as this pivotal moment sets up the dynamic for the whole sales interaction.

If a sales person is able to make a great first impression, it opens the door to further engagement with the customer where the sales person can sell their product or service. If a positive first impression is not created, the customer usually closes off the conversation and the sale dies there.

That vital great first impression (that we now know only takes a fraction of a second to form) is possible if the sales person knows how to project the following:

  1. A sense of safety
  2. Respect for the customer and their particular needs
  3. An understanding of personal boundaries
  4. Support (whatever that means for the customer)
  5. A sense of supporting, rather than taking from the customer

Body language

Before your sales people even speak, their non-verbal communication is assessed and judged. Professor Mehrabian from UCLA reckoned that 55% of a sales person’s impact is non-verbal, as sight is usually the most powerful sense.

Your sales people should learn about proxemics (the science of spatial arrangement), and how best to approach their clients.

Your posture, open/ closed body language, gestures, facial animation and eye contact all project very powerful sales signals. Sales people should become experts at knowing about these signals as part of their sales management.

When a sales person projects the correct body language signals, they invite a far more positive and open response from customers. Communication works on a mirror mechanism, so if the right body language signals are projected, there tends to be a more favourable composite response.

Sales people can also learn about mirroring techniques which build synergy, trust and rapport with clients.

Sales training teaches effective communication skills
John French Communication Guru training a Sales Master Class in Cape Town recently.

Selling with your voice

A sales person’s voice is usually their primary communication tool. It was the Victorian British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli who correctly observed that “there is no index of character so sure as the voice”. Your voice will tell clients more about you than anything else. On the telephone we can guess a sales person’s gender, age, professionalism, trustworthiness, education and attitude.

When it comes to sales, confidence and clarity need to be projected in your voice. On top of this, you need to learn how to modulate your voice. This simply means that you need to know how to add colour and variety to your speech. Monotonous sales people get nowhere.

The analogy of reading a children’s bedtime story works well here: if you don’t have expression in your voice, the child gets bored, falls asleep, doesn’t believe your story, or wants to hear another story. Adults are merely grown up children who have lots of money to give to those who are able to tell interesting stories!

Learning to sell to the 4 types of customer

A blanket sales approach to all clients and customers is the most fatal mistake. It is bound to fail. Top sales courses will teach you that there are 4 ‘client types’ and each type has their own subconscious language. The 4 customer types look for different things when they buy, and they like to be pitched to in very different ways.

Aspirant sales people need to learn the sales language / buzz words of each personality type, and which trigger phrases they should avoid. Once this sales language system is learnt, sales are almost guaranteed, as people are strongly attracted to what their personality type resonates with.

Closing the sale

After creating an excellent first impression, the other crucial part of the sales process is closing the sale. Unless a sales person is a strong Driver (target-oriented) personality type, most other personality types really battle to close the sale.

So many sales people and aspirant influencers tell it. They sadly do not sell it. Telling a client all about your product or service, but not asking for the sale at the end of that process, is a complete waste of time. Unless your sales people asks for the sale, it simply won’t happen. Sales training will teach you how and when to “pull the crucial sales trigger”.


Communication Guru sales courses in South Africa and abroad teach sales teams the intricate sales skills about how to communicate effectively to make a great first impressions and how build client relationships so that you can easily close at the end of the sales process. Making a positive impact leads to an effective sales process, and our sales training courses will be instrumental in your sales management processes.

For more information on our sales programmes, please e-mail the Communication Guru John French at

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Free guided relaxation for your personal stress management

Stress Management is a vital module in all of our training programmes because stress is the greatest enemy of effective communication. Listen to this 8 minute beautiful guided relaxation by Jenny Ibbotson. It will help you to manage anxiety and develop a habit of calmness.


Stress Management is a vital module in all of our training programmes because stress is the greatest enemy of effective communication. Listen to this 8 minute beautiful guided relaxation by Jenny Ibbotson. It will help you to manage anxiety and develop a habit of calmness.


Free guided relaxation for your personal
stress management