The Top 5 Habits of Bad Salespeople

bad salesperson

You walk into a store to buy a certain product. All you have to do is find it, take it to the sales counter, and pay for the thing. You already know that the store has plenty of them in stock and at a good price, but you end up storming out of the place without it.

What went wrong?

You encountered a salesperson who was so teeth-gnashingly bad you decided you’d rather go skinny dipping in molten lava than hand over your dosh to a store that would hire somebody like that.

This is an all too common experience for retail customers, since good salespeople, the kind that make you come away from a store wanting to go back there, are as rare as a cross-eyed tightrope walker.

So why do so many salespeople suck at selling? The answer is they’ve embraced most if not all of these lamentable habits.

1. Rudeness

This is numero uno because it’s so prevalent in the retail industry. You ask a salesperson a question about a product and he reacts as if you’d just backed over his mother in a truck. Alternatively he responds to your query as if he were granting you the world’s biggest favor, one that will cost him an arm and a leg and his large intestine. Either way, rude salespeople are great for sales, low sales.

2. Lack of Product Knowledge

You want to know what kind of RAM the computer has or how much power the 60-inch plasma TV consumes or whether the patchwork quilt comes in king-size. But the salesperson can’t answer your question and is about as keen as a slumbering sloth to find out for you. So you take your business to a store where the staff have a wealth of product knowledge and are happy to impart it. If you can actually find such a store.

3. Giving Priority to Customers on the Phone

You’re standing in line at a sales counter, the product you came to purchase in one hand, cash money in the other. Just as you go to the front of the line a phone rings, and the salesperson who was about to serve you takes the call. She then flits about the store in search of the item the caller is enquiring about. Having finally located it, she tells the caller that the store has it in stock and how much it is. But the caller doesn’t want to buy the item. He was just shopping for the best price. So, after several wasted minutes, the salesperson gets around to serving you. Well, the person who was standing behind you, anyway, since you fumed out of the store long ago, praying for fire from heaven to rain down on the bleeping joint.

Why a telephone enquiry trumps somebody physically present in a store, ready to furnish legal tender for a product, is a deep, dark mystery that only retail management can solve.

4. Dishonesty

It’s a trait often found in used car salesmen and other salespeople who get a hefty commission for flogging big-ticket items. But even salespeople who get little or no commission have been known to speak an untruth or two. Their philosophy is that if they need to tell a pork pie to get the sale, then tell a pork pie they shall. After all, where would the economy be without sales staff spouting whoppers to get consumers to buy stuff they probably don’t really want, much less need?

Dishonesty, however, has a deadly enemy: word of mouth. When you learn that a salesperson lied to you about a product, you don’t keep his villainy a secret, do you? No, you tell friends, family, and Facebook all about it. They too spread the word until hundreds, maybe even thousands, of consumers know to avoid the establishment where he plies his chicanery, avoid it like episodes of that 2013 Ironside remake.

The negative snowball effect of saying anything at all in order to get a sale is grossly underestimated by the retail industry. Silly fools.

5. Upselling

Having done your due diligence, you know what product you want to buy, right down to the make and model, but the salesperson is hell-bent on talking you into buying a different and, funnily enough, costlier model. The trouble is you don’t want it. You want the specific model you came to buy and only that model. But the salesperson does such a sterling job of bad-mouthing it that you leave the store empty handed.

Salespeople upsell, i.e. try to get you to buy a more expensive product, because they’ve been told to by store management or because they want to make more commission. Regardless, upselling is an annoying practice that, if anything, decreases sales while increasing customer dissatisfaction. It’s the retail equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot — with a rocket grenade.