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Why is ‘sales’ such a dirty word?

Let’s do a little exercise to kick this blog post off. I’m going to list a series of words below and I want you to simple say out a word that comes to mind as soon as you read the word. For example, it you see the word “blue”, you might say “red” and so forth.

Don’t think about it, just say a word that comes to mind straight away.







What was the word you said when you read SALESMAN? My guess would have been something along the lines of Sleazy, Greasy, Pushy, Greedy, Dishonest? Was I right? I’d put $100 on the table that you didn’t say any one of these words Respect, Honest, Inspiring, Important, Leader? Interesting isn’t it?

How have we come to think of sales in this way? Maybe these past experiences might answer that question. Ever had a call from a telemarketer trying to flog you something while trying to eat dinner with your family, how about walking through a retail shop when an overly excited shop assistant stands in front you, blocking your every move and some how can’t understand the phrase “I’m just browsing’, or the old favourite, a car salesman rambling about how amazing the latest Tarago is when you’re actually single and have no kids.

I’m sure all of you have experienced a similar situation to one of these. However, lets now put a twist on the previous proposed question, which should give us a more measurable answer.

What has caused us to think of sales in this way?

To this question I have 2 answers. Greed and poor education. First, let’s look at why greed has made us flinch every time we hear the word ‘Sales’. Greed is powerful emotion, one that once it gains momentum steamrolls all other emotions, plus rational. We lose focus of the primary factor as to why we are doing (selling) the things that we are and sales is an easy profession to get carried away with. Now don’t confuse greed with goals. Achieving goals involves sticking to a plan and process. There’s clarity around what you are wanting, not just more of. With greed you lose your process and focus, letting your emotions take over and allowing them to control your actions, words and behaviour. Thus coming across as sleazy, greasy and/or pushy.

It’s quite funny, ask a pushy salesman why they are in sales and I bet you’ll get an answer along the lines of “Because I just want to make more money!!” Ask the same question to a genuine goal orientated salesman and you’ll get the reply “Because I believe in what I’m selling and it’s the best way to provide a stable future for me and my family.”

Poor Education on the other hand is one I’ve always scratched my head about. Guess how many lectures/assignments/courses I attended/studied/learnt about sales in my 4 year bachelor of business degree?


That’s right, a big fat donut! Yet what is the number one essential thing businesses need to know how to do to continue to grow or even just to exist? Sell! You can imagine the shock when I walked into my first ‘proper’ job after uni and they said “Ok, go get em guys!!” I looked at the other new graduate with a face of shock and confusion and said “I didn’t learn anything about how to do this at uni, did you?”

Fortunately I have been lucky enough to work with some of the country’s leading sales professionals, plus some of the most smart business teachers that have created, complied and now consult others on how to sell. But why haven’t our universities taken more notice of these skills that we all know are so vital to any business?!

I don’t know whether we’ll ever be able to shake that certain stigma that comes with the word “sales”. I just hope that it gains the respect it deserves, because let’s face it… none of us get paid unless a sale is made.

Luke McLeod

Luke McLeod

Luke McLeod is the creator of the Top Shelf Sales Blog. A blog dedicated to offering ‘top shelf’ sales advice. Over the last decade Luke has worked for some of the world’s leading sales and communication consulting firms both as a top performing sales professional and a highly regarded sales advisor. He believes ‘sales’ tend to get a bad wrap and is on a mission to show businesses how smart sales professionals are not only crucially important to their business’s success, but how it can also be an extremely rewarding and enjoyable profession.

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