Case Study: Case of Style Over Substance

Ninety percent of us inhibit our own success because of Sales Call Reluctance. Last month we discussed how owners hamper their performance based on rejecting the role of selling in the first place. This month, we look at a condition which is similar but different. It is described by behavioral scientists George Dudley and Shannon Goodson as Hyper-Pro Call Reluctance. This is an owner who works hard to create and maintain an image of what they want to be, all the while secretly doubting their worthiness of that image and wasting valuable time and energy doing everything except what it actually takes to become what they want to be--and that means selling.

One business owner in the Midwest said that he couldn’t possibly make a sales call on another business owner because that owner would think “we needed money.” And although the business needed sales and there’s nothing wrong with asking someone to buy from you, here the need to maintain an image of a successful owner turned deadly. The owner did not make sales calls because of it.

Wait a Minute!

If you are in business of any type, by definition, you sell something to someone. Everyone knows that. But many don’t sell because they don’t want to be seen as a salesguy. Additionally, a Hyper-Pro salesperson or owner is inhibited because they either only want to sell to people with certain characteristics (avoiding the riff-raff), or they want to avoid selling to people with certain characteristics (other business owners).

All weaknesses start with strength. There is nothing wrong with looking good. We teach in our sales training that the first three principles of selling are to look nice, smell nice, and be nice. There’s nothing wrong there.

The deal killer comes when a specific strength is overused. In the case of “Flash,” the stereotype salesguy, he has confused looks with substance. But that’s not the only type of person who is a Hyper-Pro. One is based on looks, that’s for sure. Type two, however, is word bound: People who wrap themselves in jargon. And type three is a person who bases their image on looks as well as being word bound.

Picture a professor. I envision a man dressed casually, even sloppily, having long hair—ala Albert Einstein—and wearing a sweater with elbow patches. Also there is a hole in the sweater. And I see him as being word bound in the jargon of his discipline. Is he a Hyper-Pro? Quite possibly he is. It takes a lot of time to look as he does.

Remember the hippie culture? Would a hippie wear an Armani suit? Of course not. They would be wearing beads, beards, and affect certain mannerisms and speech patterns. It takes work to keep that up.

Think of the high school Goths today. Do they wear red? No. They wear black, all black. Black shirts, black pants, black sneakers, and often paint their fingernails black. It takes work to collect a wardrobe of all black like that, let alone stay that way all the time.

Now let’s bring it to our world. One owner in the mid-1990s, who had every digital do-dad known to mankind at the time, told Pamela and me, “I want to only deal with customers who are digitally sophisticated.”And that was in the 1990s when no one was that digitally sophisticated. There he was, limiting his sales because he had an image that he was trying to live up to: the digitally sophisticated print shop owner.

Watch two IT types meet for the first time. What do they do? They are polite, but talk in jargon to see if the other person can keep up. And that’s because if the other person isn’t at a certain level, they don’t want to waste their time with him.

There’s nothing wrong with dressing appropriately. There’s nothing wrong with being digitally sophisticated or having product knowledge and understanding jargon. What is wrong is when the tendency gets in the way of making money. If we won’t ask another business owner to buy from us because we feel that asking for the sale is demeaning to our perceived self image, or that they are unworthy if they are not digitally sophisticated enough, then that hurts us; not them. By definition, those that are more successful are those that initiate the most contacts.

Is This You?

Hyper-Pros try to compensate for their secret doubts by projecting an image of importance. They use big words when small words will do. They’re always working on big projects and important sales, while often showing disdain for small customers and small jobs as not being important enough for them.

An image bound Hyper-Pro tends to be dressed to the standard they choose and to confuse packaging with prospecting. “If I look and act the part, they will come,” is their motto.

A word bound Hyper-Pro enjoys discussing fine points of movies, cars, clothes, politics, fine wines, and any other subject you might bring up. They tend to help instructors with their points rather than asking questions about the subject matter. They may be seen as pretentious and affect cultural mannerisms. These folks like titles, except the title of mere salesperson. They are articulate, have a large vocabulary, and are difficult to impress. You make a point and they make a better one.

They make a good first impression, although they can be compulsive name droppers. And, in a true test of a Hyper-Pro, they always judge a group photo by the way they look in it, rather than the overall photo.

Now, remember that all weaknesses emanate from strengths. They use words such as emanate rather than “start with,” for instance.

What’s the Problem?

Hyper-Pros at the toxic level will not initiate contact; rather, they want to project an image to draw buyers to them. Selling is all about getting someone to buy something. The pointy end is initiating contacts. The number of initial contacts is directly related to the opportunities to present and persuade. If you see yourself here, you may have hesitancy to initiate contact based on this style.

What do you do about it? Well, again, there is training specifically for this, but you can take steps by gaining the simple understanding that people do not buy based on your image; rather, they buy based on what’s in it for them. Be concerned with your appearance and use of language, but don’t let it stop you from initiating contact.

Now, just reading this and seeing yourself in this scenario doesn’t exactly make it so. Testing is available to see if this is at a toxic level or is impairing your performance.

And remember, just because you have these tendencies doesn’t mean they are impairing overall performance. Over 90% of us have one or more types, and nearly 40% of us have this specific type, so you will see yourself in this or one of the other profiles. Not all of us with this or another type are hesitant to initiate contact. The real assessment is whether this is impairing your business. If it is, then you need to do something about it. If not, then you need to be aware of it so that it doesn’t impair your business in the future.

Next installment, we will take on a style that I find widespread in printing, and the third most common among all sales types: Those who are overcome by Analysis Paralysis. And, yes, I freely admit that I have a little touch of Hyper-Pro myself.

Tom Crouser is president of CPrint International; a program of Crouser & Associates, 4710 Chimney Drive, Charleston, WV 25302, 304/965-7100. Contact him at and follow him on Join Tom in a seminar near you as he discusses “Surviving the Economic Downturn” and what you can do about it. Check for upcoming locations and to sign up for the free CPrint Tips newsletter.

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