When one of our customers tells us that he or she has hired the perfect salesperson, it scares the heck out of me. Few people truly understand selling, and the stereotypical personality that many people think will make the ideal salesperson frequently fails miserably. Frankly, I don’t meet a lot of really good salespeople, and selling is a misunderstood skill.

Selling is about trust. People buy from you because they think that you will solve their problems or fulfill their needs, not because they technically understand what you do. Think of a doctor’s visit where the doctor prescribed a medicine to solve an ailment. I doubt you fully understood what the medicine biologically does to your body, but you took it because you trusted the doctor to provide a professional solution. People buy from contractors for the same reason.

Too many people think that the ideal salesperson talks a lot of bull, is extremely extroverted and talks people into decisions. You only trust people when they listen to what you have to say, make you feel heard and then provide heartfelt solutions. How can you trust someone who can’t be taken seriously or tries to manipulate people? You can’t. Good salespeople are great listeners, not great talkers. We all have two ears and one mouth; good salespeople need to use them proportionately.

It was once said that the ideal salesperson is someone who is being tarred and feathered and run out of town, yet thinks he or she is leading a parade. There’s no question that the extroverted salesperson is willing to talk to people and may not suffer from call reluctance. Motivation can be an important trait, but there can also be a thin line between motivation and denial. By the law of averages, if you are willing to call on enough people, eventually you may succeed. However, it’s much easier to take a calculated approach and make the process more efficient.

Most of us have been insulted by car salespeople who abuse our intelligence. A friend of mine manages a hotel group, and I recently did a sales program for his salespeople. It was amazing how little anyone knew about sales and how the vast majority of the group had been order takers for years. After thinking about it, being president of a firm that has run hundreds of meetings, I have never met a really good hotel salesperson. Frequently, you are better to hire a person who is intelligent, organized and a good listener, and then teach the person your trade and how to sell. Selling is nothing more than good communication. Good salespeople help customers make intelligent choices and make it easy for them to choose and buy.

Too many people think sales training is all about overcoming objections and closing the deal. Really? When was the last time a customer told you no to your face? I bet rarely. Instead, they don’t return your calls or tell you via email. Sales training was dominated by big-ticket items such as life insurance, cars and real estate. Far too much emphasis was on closing. Maybe in those industries closing is more important. Let’s say you want me to pay $500 a month on a life insurance policy so that my wife’s second husband won’t have to work. Sounds like a tough sell to me.

Another sales myth is that people buy from whom they like and socialize with. People buy from others they like only if they also respect and trust the person. We have all bought something from our brother in law or a buddy who let us down. A person can like you, but if someone else figures out the person’s problem and fulfills his or her needs, you are going to lose the sale.

Ever bid a job you didn’t get? Sure you have. Ever bid a job you didn’t get, and someone else bid on different specs and isn’t going to do the same job? Probably so. It’s not your customer’s responsibility to determine the difference between yours and other quotes. It’s your responsibility to ask questions, solve the problem and explain your point of difference.

Ever get a job and you were not the low bid? Probably so. So what did the customer tell the other person? That he or she thought you were more competent? No, the customer said he or she had another price or went with someone else, and you just assumed it was low price. If you think sales is all about the low price, then it’s probably going to be.

Business-to-business sales also represent a challenge for many salespeople. The business-to-business sales process is about how people buy things and never about the actual job. Yet most estimators and salespeople focus on technical jobs and social issues. It’s about politics, your contact’s career and the buying process. You can buy your contact lunch, but he or she isn’t going to lose their job by buying from you if you don’t fit into his or her process. A business customer’s problem may appear to be price, but in reality it’s rarely the customer’s actual money. It’s all about the process.

 Rebuild how you envision the sales process and your sales will increase. Most contractors are problem solvers. Focus on solving problems — just make sure you have connected with the customers and fully understand what their problems really are.