“We aren’t using the ‘S’ word at our company anymore,” my friend announced, in response to my “How’s biz?” greeting.

“Really? Why not?” I asked.

“My service plumbers are offended by the ‘S’ word. I wouldn’t use the ‘S’ word even if I stepped right in it.”

“How do you pull that off?” I pressed. “What do you call it?”

“Service! Education! Communication! Anything but….SALES.”

He continued, “You see, the SALES word drives my plumbers crazy. They can’t stand to think of themselves as salesmen. The word SALES reminds them of Snake Oil, Sleaze Ball, and that other ‘S’ word.”

Can you relate to my friend? Do you like the idea of calling it something else? Do you HATE asking your plumbers to – gulp – make a SALE? Are you thinking, “Yeah, if we didn’t have to do the SALES part, I would really enjoy business!”?


Well, get over it.

Sales Phobia: 1. A compulsive and persistent dread of or aversion to sales. 2. Any strong aversion or dislike of sales.

Sales is the name of the game. And by calling it something else you are just showing your Sales Phobia. Sales Phobia is a fatal disease. It will absolutely kill your business. Luckily, the condition isn’t incurable. This column will take a look at the causes of Sales Phobia. Then, I’ll show you how to get over it!

I am a recovering Sales Phobic. I exposed my resistance to sales at a planning meeting for Nexstar, a cool association of service contractors. I was helping the group develop a curriculum for their service managers’ training camp. I wanted to make sure that the curriculum covered all the roles a service manager assumes…technical trainer, inventory manager, fleet manager, customer service manager, scheduling manager, etc. The service manager, often also the owner in a small company, has a huge responsibility load.

One of the other members of the committee said, “The service manager has only one responsibility: sales. The service manager needs to look at every situation he encounters and ask, ‘Is this helping, or hindering, sales?’”

I was shocked. Certainly, the technical aspects of the job were as important as sales? What about making sure the trucks were in top shape? What about safety issues?

I argued, “Money isn’t the only thing, you know. There’s more to a business than making sales.”

His head whipped around. He fixed his eyes on mine. He took a deep breath and replied, “Unless a sale happens, none of those other things will happen. Sales have to be the top priority. Ellen, what is your problem with sales? I’m not talking about selling people things they don’t need. I am talking about solving problems, and charging a reasonable price. That’s all there is to sales. You’ve got an issue with sales. And you need to get over it.” There was disappointment in his voice.

I was stunned. I was working as a saleperson for the group at the time! And I was clearly avoiding the ‘S’ word.

He was right. Sales is name of the game. That confrontation knocked some sense into me. I wondered at the reasons for my Sales Phobia. Certainly, I am not the only one eligible for a Twelve-Step program for recovering Sales Phobics. (“Hi, my name is Ellen R. and I am afraid of SALES!”) In his fabulous book, How To Sell At Prices Higher Than Your Competitors, Lawrence Steinmetz makes this observation…

“Many sales reps really don’t like selling. In fact, a lot of sales people think selling is just a notch above ambulance chasing. The truth is, more than 40 percent of the sales reps I’ve tested fundamentally don’t approve of selling – and my educated guess is that about 90 percent of our total population doesn’t approve of selling.”

Sheesh. If salespeople don’t approve of selling, and if 90% of all people don’t like it…is it any wonder that you and your plumbers would rather find another word for sales?

Why you are wimp about sales.

All phobias have a link to the truth. We dislike sales because we’ve had bad sales experiences. Remember the Alfred Hitchcock movie, Marnie? Tippi Hedren played Marnie, a neurotic woman with an unreasonable fear of the color red. Naturally, the dramatic conclusion of the movie reveals a horrible incident from her past: a blood soaked murder. Hence, the fear of RED! Basic psychology.

Our aversion to sales is linked to our past experiences with bad sales attempts. Once, I had to forcibly push an over-zealous window salesman out the door. He had been at my house for three hours before he announced he wasn’t leaving without a signed contract. Yikes! Certainly, you