Coaching hundreds of individuals and hosting dozens of workshops every year – we hear it all the time. Nobody wants to be “that sales guy.” We hear it from attorneys, CPAs, high-net-worth financial advisors, business consultants, and leadership and sales professionals.

Who is this guy with the notorious reputation? He’s the one who walks across the room to make an introduction – cloaking himself with confidence, ready to lead with the multiple layers of names, associations, and clubs he belongs to or frequents. Yet he doesn’t back it up with anything more than golf invites, exaggerated experiences, premature promises of expertise, and fancy steak dinners. He pretends to be a big shot, but character out of a movie, where self-serving boldness is rewarded on the big screen. “That guy” is all talk and bold promises. He’s seldom effective in making real life, genuine impressions that create sustainable relationships.

The common denominator of “that guy” or, better said, “that person,” is pretty simple. Their thoughts and actions serve themselves, and not the person they’re trying to engage. They look to exploit who they know instead of how they can help. Anytime you approach someone with egocentric intentions (“How do I get them to see how good we are?” or “How do I get them to do business with me?”), you are “that person.”

However, there’s a really important gray area here. Proclaiming you don’t want to be “that person” to avoid boldness in your outreach can also be in a hiding spot. Don’t use that excuse to avoid the necessary hard work of building your brand, network, and business, or to avoid asserting yourself in certain situations or opportunities where boldness may be required.

The fact is you can be bold and still be genuine. You can be assertive and still not be aggressive. You can initiate business conversations with those within your social and professional networks without being “that person.”

What makes someone “that person” is the collective action of their self-serving motivations. They pursue introductions to land an appointment where they exploit the prospect’s pain. They position their expertise to persuade the prospect into making a change decision they might not be ready to make.

They do everything in anticipation of financial reward, professional validation, and/or competitive satisfaction.

There’s nothing wrong with competing, receiving a financial reward, or experiencing validation for your many years of expertise and knowledge. But these shouldn’t come at the expense or exploitation of other people. This is where the disconnect occurs.

Three Common Characteristics of “That Person”

You struggle for hours to craft perfect outreach emails, looking for the right words to communicate your value so the prospect feels compelled to respond. The emails are usually full of “I”, “our”, “We are…”, “I’d love to…”, “I was hoping…” phrases and references. Every word tells the prospect that your outreach effort serves you – not them. If they accept your invite, the conversation will be all about you and how they should be doing business with you.

  1. When you generate or earn a seat at the prospect’s table, you end up doing 75% of the talking. You gauge the value of the conversation by how and if it meets your needs. Interesting fact – most tenured professionals with years of expertise do this because they shine by proving and promising vs. slowing down and taking the time to help their prospect think, debate, and evaluate change. The more experience and knowledge gained, the more apt they are to make assumptions, and less inclined to ask questions and listen. How can you have a conversation that helps your prospect if you base it on how it may advance your sale?
  2. The end of your conversations are a struggle. They usually end with “You’ve given us a lot to think about,” “Call us in a few weeks,” “Give us some time to talk internally and we’ll get back with you.” In any case, you leave with your fingers crossed. There are many reasons why this happens. Most likely, you didn’t ask enough questions, and the ones you did ask were strictly focused on finding and exploiting the prospect’s pain. In addition to spending too much time talking about what you do, you listened for what you wanted to hear, and only asked questions that served your purpose. You’re “that person.”

Being “that person” is like always having a 100-pound weight strapped to your back. You feel it, others sense it, but no one can see it. You’re wearing the emperor’s new clothes.