Be shy and sell well

Illustration of ear giving off sound waves

It was at my cousin’s office in the business district of Mumbai many years ago that I met him. He was, according to my cousin, a star salesman.

“Hear him, Bob,” said my cousin, “He has the gift of the gab!” Which meant he could talk fast and easily because words came out of his mouth faster than a race car. And like a race car, he looked good, and his manner was charming.

But my cousin fired him in a month. “I don’t know what was wrong,” he said. “He had the gift of the gab, yet he failed.”

I worked as a salesman during that time, for my dad, and as I studied sales, I could have told my cousin that being a great talker didn’t make you a great salesman, but being an intent listener did.

What happens with people who talk too much is they listen too little.

And it’s not just words you need to listen to; it’s body language, shifting of eyes. They’re all saying something all the time. A shift from one leg to another says they are getting restless. That you need to stop. You need to ask questions.

I once had a sales manager who used to tell me that he could confuse the customer into signing on the dotted line. Confuse? I wondered what he meant, till I realized, he got the sale, but after that was a very troublesome customer, because that customer had not understood anything about the product, while my salesman was busy ‘confusing’ him.

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Robert Clements
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Robert Clements

Robert Clements is a journalist and newspaper columnist. With an estimated 6 million readership, Bob’s Banter is published in over 30 newspapers and magazines in nearly every state in India, as well as in the top newspapers of Bangladesh, Dubai and Pakistan and is also translated into Hindi. He blogs at and can be reached at