The TACTIC: Drive a stick shift

Tactics Sales


Bob was sitting at the picnic table out in front of the office eating his lunch. As Larry, a salesperson who had repeatedly refused to be promoted to sales manager, drove up in his fully restored MG-TD, Bob wondered why Larry was always so successful.

“Hey,” called out Bob, “when are you going to get a modern car with an automatic, instead of driving that relic from the late forties?”

“Do you mean like that Japanese clone box you have… indifferent gray… no sounds of machinery at work?”


Larry walked over and sat on the wall next to Bob. “You want to know why I keep that car?”

“You love to keep pouring money into it?”

“No, I keep it because it has a stick shift. When I’m driving it, I have to pay attention to what I’m doing. To drive it well requires me to always be aware of when I need to shift. It’s a reminder of what I always have to do when I’m on a call.”

“I missed the connection.”

“You get in your car and flip on the mental autopilot. You aren’t aware of what you are doing.”

“So what? That’s the way I like it.”

“Well, most salespeople are the same way in front of a prospect or customer. They’re on autopilot and have only the foggiest idea of what they are saying.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” retorted Bob.

“Sure it is. Do you have any idea what you do with your left hand when the prospect is giving you a hard time?”

“How would I know? I’m too busy trying to counter the objections.”

“You fiddle with your belt buckle, and at the same time, start rocking back and forth on your heels. Then you get this worried look on your face. Have to tell you, you look like someone who is nervous and hiding something.”

“But that’s not what I’m saying,” responded Bob.

“It is what you are saying but not with words. Verbally you tell the prospect to trust you, and physically you tell him not to trust you. What’s a prospect to do?”


Larry told Bob the message he is actually giving, “I’m a liar.” Would you buy from Bob? Is Bob on autopilot?


Learning to be aware of what you are doing in front of a prospect takes some work. You have to convince yourself that the prospect’s picture of you has more do with making the sale than what your picture is of the prospect. Most salespeople have spent hundreds of hours in training programs that focus solely on what the prospect is saying and doing. Very little time is ever spent on learning what you are doing.

It’s trite to say that communication in a sales situation is a two-way street. Everyone will nod and agree with this statement. But then 99 percent of the sales training ignores your participation. Think about it!

Obviously, you don’t act in a disrespectful manner. Of course, you dress neatly. But your part of communicating is more than wearing clean clothes, brushing your teeth, and smiling when appropriate.


You first have to learn what you are doing in both successful and in unproductive sales situations. What words did you say? What tone of voice did you use to say those words? What were the different body positions you held when saying those words?

Many studies have been done which support the simple fact that less than 10 percent of your communication consists of words. Ninety percent is something else you are doing. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”

The best method to “see yourself” is video. This is also the most difficult to arrange, especially when the prospect learns he’s being “filmed.” Filming real sales encounters is much better than filming mock sales situations. However, filming mock sales is preferable to anything noted below.

You can record audio, but you lose about half of what you “say.” The half you lose is what you did with your body. Don’t ever discount the impact of this portion.

The third method is to have an impartial observer take notes. Ideally, the observer is someone who is not a salesperson. This will almost guarantee a prospect’s report of what you are like. Be warned that this report can be quite pointed but very useful.

Learning to see yourself as something besides a collection of words is very hard work. The payoff is the closing percentage that goes way up. You decide.


If you aren’t aware of what you are doing, how can you be in rapport with the prospect?

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