service_person_or_salespersonThere is a misconception that salespeople are all one breed; that they are all gregarious, outgoing, extroverted individuals. Not true. The truth of the matter is that you have most likely been sold to by this one sort of person – because that is how most companies hire salespeople. They hire the people who like people and build great relationships. But building relationships does not necessarily mean closed business. I can’t tell you how many companies I know who have really nice, friendly, service-oriented salespeople . . . except that they aren’t really salespeople. They are service people.

But service people can also rock at sales . . . right?

Service people can make great salespeople . . . sometimes. But, it is NOT a given that just because the person is good with customers and takes great care of them, that they can also be great salespeople. I don’t know the specific stats, but it isn’t even highly likely that great service people can make great salespeople.

Frequently it is because of two things:

1. They have a high need for approval, or need to be liked

2. They have a hard time selling value – perhaps due to lack of confidence – but likely stems back to #1.

Why would a great service person fail as a salesperson?

Here’s the deal. People who need to be liked or have a high need for approval don’t necessarily make good salespeople. They might make great service people because they are people-pleasers. They take good care of others. They care what the other person thinks about them, maybe a little too much.

Salespeople need to be in touch with what their customers are thinking, but they need to not care whether or not the person likes them. If they do, then they wither when faced with a conflict, or they have a hard time pushing the prospect or customer to do the thing that might be difficult but is best. They have a hard time asking thought-provoking questions that will uncover how the prospect or customer is really feeling or thinking. They don’t want to impose on the other party or make the other person uncomfortable at all. Which, if they were really doing their job, might require that they sometimes make the other party a little uncomfortable. And, unfortunately, these people have a hard time getting to decision makers and therefore waste time with the wrong people, and fail as salespeople.


Do your salespeople want to build relationships or close business?

Frequently salespeople who have this issue of needing to be liked a little bit too much, find it most difficult to sell to people with whom they have the best relationships. They get walked on by their best clients because they won’t stand up to them or won’t be brutally honest with them for fear of losing their relationship. The truth is that customers and prospects don’t need to like salespeople as much as they need to trust and respect them for what they bring to the table, for how they can help their business and the advice and counsel they can bring. Not because they are good buddies.

So pause the next time you want to move service people into sales. You may cause them to fail – and may lose a great service person in the process. We use a simple evaluation tool to determine if someone can and will be good at sales, even if they have had little to no real sales experience.

Eliminate the guesswork. Get a sample of our evaluation tool here:


Read more about the pitfalls of salespeople more focused on building relationships than closing sales: