Jill Konrath


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The Demise of Nice Salespeople


grim reaperThere's no pussyfooting around it. I feel pretty strongly that I'm right on about this.

My prediction is that we will soon see the total demise of nice salespeople.

And here's why. Today's crazy-busy decision makers have absolutely no time nor interest in working with sellers whose main focus is on building relationships & providing great service. 

Instead, they want to work with savvy professionals who bring them high value on a regular basis. To avoid extinction, sellers need to:

  • Sharpen their personal expertise in areas relevant to their customers.
  • Proactively bring them fresh ideas, provocative insights and information.
  • Help them achieve their business objectives.
  • Realize that they are the differentiator -- not their products or services.

In short, being "nice" is simply no longer sufficient in today's business environment.

So what do you think? Am I off-base? What are your predictions for the "nice" salesperson?

Jill KonrathJill Konrath is an internationally recognized sales strategist. As author of two bestselling books, SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies, she's a frequent speaker at sales meetings and conferences. For more fresh ideas, download her free Prospecting Toolkit.


You are absolutely right- "nice" is a negative term when it comes to salespeople. Customers are MAD as HELL and they're not going to take it anymore and it's about time salespeople figure that out. 
Great post and Happy New Year!
Posted @ Friday, December 30, 2011 3:12 PM by Josiane Feigon
@Jill - All four of the points you mentioned have been in play for quite some time. I have a sneaking suspicion that years from now there will still be salespeople who do not excel in all four of those areas. 
@Josiane - When you write, "Customers are MAD as HELL and they're not going to take it anymore" what does that mean specifically?
Posted @ Saturday, December 31, 2011 6:55 PM by Jeff Blackwell
"Sharpen your personal expertise in areas relevant to your customers" I was just making my list of new years resolutions. This is great! Thanks Jill
Posted @ Sunday, January 01, 2012 10:50 AM by Gail Milton
@jill I see the demise of "maybe". I think that B2B sales professionals have read enough copies of your book, and perhaps Skip Miller's book, and are ready to throw away the "nice" attitude that has been doing a disservice to them and the customer, and instead embrace a proactive attitude towards the selling process. 
Your prediction is not a wack prediction at all!
Posted @ Sunday, January 01, 2012 11:12 AM by Adam Metz
I have trouble with the fourth bullet -- salespeople that are better than their products lead to buyers remorse and headaches for everybody.
Posted @ Sunday, January 01, 2012 4:44 PM by Chip Patton
If we are dying and need a surgery, we are not going to ask whether the surgeon is nice, but whether the he is competent. Companies want to live, so nice is not what they are looking for in a salesman today.  
Posted @ Sunday, January 01, 2012 4:45 PM by Jay
May be true in B2B sales. In real estate, the default for sellers is still to use an agent they know, like and trust. If they can't get the job done, the seller dispense with "nice" and hire an aggressive marketer.
Posted @ Sunday, January 01, 2012 4:48 PM by Jeff Gingerich
It should be possible for someone to fulfill you bullet points and still be "nice enough." I might take a rude, but highly competent surgeon, but I doubt that's a salesperson I would want to work with more than once.
Posted @ Sunday, January 01, 2012 4:56 PM by Jeffrey Cufaude
Life is too short to work with rude people. You have to be competent AND nice.
Posted @ Sunday, January 01, 2012 5:58 PM by Julie
It was never enough to be just "nice". One always needed to be nice, and smart, loyal, informed, creative, and adding value to the transaction to the client's benefit. What does "nice" mean, anyway? It's a pretty weak adjective.
Posted @ Sunday, January 01, 2012 6:01 PM by Cynthia Maloney
You can provide all of the above AND be nice. If you think you have to be rude, pushy, or come in trying to "dominate" me with sophomoric methods, there is the door. Use it. Don't bother coming back.
Posted @ Sunday, January 01, 2012 6:25 PM by Michael
Nice or not if the product doesn't perform as promised, or it outright sucks, the sales person won't be successful.
Posted @ Sunday, January 01, 2012 6:51 PM by Mark Wickliffe
Honestly, I think this post is by one salesperson telling other salespeople what worked for you last year won't work for you this year, thus you must buy what I am selling.  
Posted @ Sunday, January 01, 2012 7:34 PM by Michael
I don't agree with this post at all. The demise of nice salespeople within an organisation is the beginning of the end for the business in my view. 
As a customer, I need just 1 or 2 experiences with salespeople that are pushy/ruthless/overly determined to realise that they are part of an organisation that focuses only on the dollars and not on building a tribe of loyal followers by offering great products and service. End result? I take my business down the road to a competitor (there are always plenty of these) where I am even happy to pay more just so that I can get some decent service from someone that I trust. 
Unless we start selling to machines, then developing relationships with people will always be a key element in sales success.
Posted @ Monday, January 02, 2012 3:08 PM by Barry Hemmings
Hey All! I appreciate all your comments. Just a few thoughts ... I'm not saying people can't be nice, just that's it's not sufficient. As Josiane said, "Today's customers aren't going to take it anymore." They want expertise. Someone who's savvy. Thinking about their business goals and objectives.  
If you're working in the B2B arena, that's what you have to lead with this days if you want them to work with you.  
And, re: the 4th bullet: I strongly believe that if the products/services are fairly comparable, customers will chose to work with the smart, contributing sales person.  
The "nice guy" will lose if they're not bringing their smarts to the table. In fact, customers will pay MORE to work with the proactive salesperson.
Posted @ Monday, January 02, 2012 9:38 PM by Jill Konrath
I agree with some of the previous comments, regarding the word nice. What does it really mean? Does nice mean weak and unfocused? I think not... :) 
Posted @ Tuesday, January 03, 2012 4:17 PM by Oliver Lopez
Hi Jill. When was being nice sufficient?
Posted @ Tuesday, January 03, 2012 6:51 PM by Jeff Blackwell
wow, it's amazing how many people are missing the point of this post! 
"nice" is part and parcel of the sales process. People deal with people that they like. However, nice in and of itself is not the foundation of a succesful/mutually profitable buyer/seller relationship
When Jill says "nice," she refers to salespeople that believe, all else aside, that it is their charm and innate likability that will break down barriers. Guess what.. it doesn't, and it won't.  
The huge cognitive dissonance (and what I constantly battle with a few of my employees about,) is that buyers have been trained, their entire lives, by horrible salespeople. They expect the paradigm of the "nice" salesperson, and they'll reject this person "nicely." 
A business-oriented cold-call, with zero pleasantries, delivering a message with immediate impact to a potential clients business, is FAR preferable to a 10-minute phone call "getting to know someone." 
I'd recommend that everyone and anyone reading this check out the recently-published book The Challenger Sale. Their research supports everything Jill says. 
Posted @ Wednesday, January 04, 2012 7:44 AM by keith abramson
I agree. I don't know how many times I was the "nicest", gave the all out party and then had no sales for my efforts or 1 hour of darn good entertainment. Or years ago would hear of other consultants who "they did not like" and then find out my hostess had a $1000 party. I used to think.....don't like me so much and open up your wallet and spend. 
I don't want to chase customers away and appear cold.....but I don't need to make buddys with everyone either.
Posted @ Wednesday, January 04, 2012 7:45 AM by Roxie Haynes
As long as we don't get "nice" confused with "polite" I can go with you on this one Jill. 
Interesting how the books we read can so quickly and directly influence our actions.
Posted @ Wednesday, January 04, 2012 8:33 AM by Miles Austin
I am learning that being nice only breeds continued indecisiveness. The critical path is to determine all the time whether you are either moving forward or not in the sales cycle. If not, move on.I like the analogy of businesses who had enough and are not going to take anymore ("Network: the movie).It is the same for sellers who are tired of indecisiveness and no returned calls; emails.
Posted @ Wednesday, January 04, 2012 8:53 AM by John Walser
You can be nice (or not) on your way to becoming trusted... which is what the end goal of all bonding and rapport is. What's not most important is to be liked - although that is the typical end result if you reach the promise land.
Posted @ Wednesday, January 04, 2012 9:26 AM by Scott Smeester
I agree absolutely with what you see are the key thing a sales person need to bring to a sale. I would contend that just being "nice" was never enough. I think in this age where discoutersy seems to be coming the norm that adding being "nice" or decent to you list will provide a further differentiator and value to the buyer.
Posted @ Wednesday, January 04, 2012 9:38 AM by Roger Lane
If all it took to be successful in sales was the nice quotient, everyone would be in sales and everyone would be making lots of money as anyone can pretend to be nice for periods of time....My customers are smart, savvy and KIND and that's the kind of person that they want to do business with...A mirror of themselves, a real human being, not a nice robot.
Posted @ Wednesday, January 04, 2012 10:16 AM by Cynthia
Jill, I don't think you mean that sales people need to be unprepared and surly. I got a call the other day from a salesperson. She had no idea what our business was about. (She claimed that she had no computer in the office!)When I explained my position, she just argued with me...even talking over the top of me. You can guess how the call ended.  
I agree that in 2012 a successful sales person needs to provide serious value. And, the approach needs to be real...that comes from listening to the customer's needs and goals. But, sales shouldn't give up on being civilized and courteous.
Posted @ Wednesday, January 04, 2012 10:54 AM by CK Wilde
Do you agree with this accessment of sales in 2012?
Posted @ Wednesday, January 04, 2012 12:15 PM by Beth Meullen
So as a business person, let me first say that I don’t care for sale persons. They waste my time. That being said, let me share an interesting relationship I had with a salesman that I grew to respect enough that we became good friends. As a new contractor I began my business career with little cash and no equipment. I was the little guy that most do not pay attention to. I don’t know how Jim got my name or phone number but one day he called me and introduced himself and his company. He had me on the phone for less than a minute stating he did not want to take my time but asked would I have lunch with him, as he said, “everyone needs to eat lunch”. I reluctantly accepted his invitation. At lunch, he asked probing questions about my business, goals, and expectations of the future. As I spoke he took notes on 3x5 cards which impressed me. He shared his views on the economy, possible markets to tap and ways to gain market share. I felt like he was more of a mentor or partner rather than a salesman. He was adding value before trying to sell me anything. Jim was very informed about our industry and shared excellent insights and ideas. He was never pushy and was always a gentleman. I began to value our lunches together as it was evident that his intention was to help me succeed. As my business grew, he became the only source of products; in fact I bought every piece of equipment we owned from him. There were other vendors, other brands, cheaper prices, but in the end I trusted him and valued his relationship. In review, what are the key points to take away from this real life experience? 
1) Be nice. Care about your customers, develop relationships. It’s not a sprint, it is a journey. 
2) Be industry intelligent, don’t BS folks, know your stuff. 
3) Be product intelligent, don’t BS folks, know your stuff. 
4) Add value, be a partner. 
5) Follow up, don’t be pushy, the close will take care of itself if there is trust. 
6) Call on the little guy, help them grow, the rewards are exponential. 
7) Provide excellent service, again, this is a relationship. 
8) Treat others as you would like to be treated. 
Posted @ Wednesday, January 04, 2012 12:24 PM by Bryce Blankenship
I don't think Jill is talking about "either/or", but "both/and". I am a sales professional, but also a consumer and I always prefer to deal with a genuinely pleasant sales person. YES, a nice sales professional will be well-recieved more than a jerk. IF he/she can also deliver the goods and services that will help their client reach their business objectives.
Posted @ Wednesday, January 04, 2012 2:14 PM by Jack
I think what Jill is saying ties back to the old adage that says: 
"All things being equal, people want to do business with people they like." 
I interpret Jill's post (and I tend to agree with her) to change that old adage to the following: 
"All things being equal, people want to do business with people they view as value-bringers." 
Posted @ Thursday, January 05, 2012 11:01 AM by Bryan Shoemaker
Jill, to help remove some of the speculation perhaps you could clarity your thoughts on this matter.
Posted @ Thursday, January 05, 2012 11:39 AM by Jeff Blackwell
Talk about missing the point. 
Jill is obviously suggesting that 'nice' can't be ones overarching strategy, and that her bullets are some suggestions of strats that are MORE important than JUST nice. 
Instead of hearing the message, people love to jump on a counterpoint, while missing the original entirely. 
Open your ears and eyes BEFORE your mouth, would also be a good sale strat.
Posted @ Thursday, January 05, 2012 11:43 AM by Aaron
What is great about Jill's comments is her last question/statement. Experience has taught me that making counter points and disagreement are healthy if done in good taste. I remember a very wise and wealthy business man say, "disagreement is good as long as it takes us to a better place." Jill would never expect complete agreement, that is why she ended her thoughts with her wise parting statement, "So what do you think? Am I off-base? What are your 2012 predictions?" My years in business have taught me to encourage every opinion and then sift out the useful and discard the chaff. Some comments made in recent posts do reflect real world experience and actual results that were very profitable, it would be foolish not to consider them whether we agree with them or not.
Posted @ Thursday, January 05, 2012 12:19 PM by Bryce
I agree that being a "nice" salesperson is often overestimated. I have many very "nice" colleagues that close less sales than those who are less "entertaining" to be around with overall. Instead, they have the right mix between being polite and pushing to close the sale. 
I'm not sure if this is just a 2012 phenomenon, but I've also noticed that, due to globalisation and the internet, customers are much more open to change / improvement. Many clients used to build a lifetime relationship with the supplier next door. Nowadays, you are forced more than ever to constantly improve your business, and that includes searching for better suppliers. Because if you don't, your competition will. 
This makes it easier for salespeople to break through existing producer-customer relationships, but makes it more challenging to keep.
Posted @ Sunday, January 08, 2012 8:21 AM by Matthias Dewilde
i don't agree with you statement. while being "nice" is not sufficient for a career, i think creating a personal relationship will differentiate you. you need to "proactively bring them fresh ideas, provocative insights and information. 
Help them achieve their business objectives" but i don't think you will get traction if you are a jerk. people have enough jerks in their lives. the ability to do what you are asking is important. but being able to do it in a certain way, to make it a pleasant experience- that is the game changer. just a thought.
Posted @ Tuesday, January 10, 2012 10:02 AM by alan miller
I think you contradict yourself, in the short blurb (leading to this blog)you are quoted as saying customers dont want relationship building or "partnering". You state;They will want people who can help realize their business objectives." How will I know those objectives if I didnt build a partner relationship with them? How will they believe I am invested in helping them achieve the business goals?  
So.... NO I think you are way off base. I have spent 29 years in sales and did the "not nice" "just close it" sales strategy of the 80s, It died and good riddance!
Posted @ Monday, January 16, 2012 7:58 AM by Ron
I agree that being nice just isn't ENOUGH anymore…great piece, one I'll share with our members!
Posted @ Monday, January 23, 2012 11:48 AM by Paige Worthy
Providing True Value is what is needed -- everything else is secondary! Too many folks are focused on just trying to build a relationship since they have been told over and over that relationships sell. The truth be known is that the potential customer will buy from you only if you provide a true solution to their "Pain Point". After that, all other things being equal, then and only then relationships do matter!
Posted @ Friday, April 06, 2012 12:25 AM by Kevin Mullenex
Jill clearly states "sellers whose main focus".... I agree the sellers MAIN FOCUS cannot be relationship building. If the buyer does not see value in a relationship it is very irritating when a seller tries to build one. The buyer must believe that the seller can actually help him / her to know if the interaction is a good investment of time. 
This post makes perfect sense in the context of Jill's other writings. Read SNAP Selling!  
Honestly, selling with the relationship as the main focus, "nice selling", is lazy selling and only attracts those that were already going to buy anyway, which in my mind is not selling at all. That's simply clerking. It is what people do when they don't believe in their product, company or themselves, when they are not experts in their field, when they have no value to give. 
Buyers are too sophisticated these days, many times they know just as much as mid level sellers. If you want to be a great seller you must be able to demonstrate leadership, experience and expertise on the front side of the call that stretches the buyers to think in new ways. And yes I do think having natural charisma helps deliver a message that is more likely to be received. But that is not being a "nice seller"... just a naturally talented one.
Posted @ Thursday, May 10, 2012 10:07 AM by Jim Catalano
Nice? Not Nice? How about simply professional? How about skilled? How about effective? If a buyer really needs a salesperson, then they will look for competence and expertise. If they only need information or are just looking for a price go ahead, it won't matter, whether you're nasty of or you're nice.
Posted @ Monday, June 25, 2012 2:09 PM by Spider Lockhart
In this empathy driven economy a sales person needs to be able to identify potential client wants. Therefore I think they need to take a few minutes to ask specific questions and listen to the answers. This is not being nice, it's being smart;in my opinion.  
As a Life Coach, I am the product and the service. I need to know what my client wants so I can give it to them. Building a relationship with my potential client builds trust. In my business I want my potential client to know, like and trust me. This way I WILL get a return call. I solve their problem the first time and they come back for more. 
Depending on the product/service being nice is a priority.
Posted @ Saturday, August 11, 2012 11:50 AM by Dona Davis
People will always buy from people. Know your customer and know your stuff and you will be fine. Relationships WILL always be important.
Posted @ Wednesday, December 19, 2012 7:26 AM by John Russell
Not exactly. Knowledge of solution set makes a different but good manners and relationship building will never be irrelevant. In the end, people buy from other people.
Posted @ Wednesday, December 19, 2012 8:01 AM by Tony
First, nice has nothing do with results - clients want results. PERIOD.  
Be respectful, ,direct and show relevant value - nice has a connotation of "you can be pushed around."  
Sometimes incompetent sales people compensate by being nice - but when you review their proposal it is often fluff. 
I found in my 25 years of experience on both the selling and buying side, that I will take real value, and tough conversations over nice anyday.
Posted @ Thursday, February 06, 2014 8:36 AM by Van Mylar
There is some merit to being too nice. I have failed to close clients because I would rather be their friend?? Not good!
Posted @ Tuesday, February 11, 2014 5:04 PM by Willie
Nice was never enough. "Nice" got you in the door. Value has always kept us there. In the rapid communication world of today there is no call again and again. Decision makers want to see the potential answer to their problem on the first go around. They expect courtesy from the beginning and are demanding at least pertinent, in-depth knowledge form sale people or they haven't the time for us. They are no longer educating us about their industry. We are expected to know pain points and be solution providers.
Posted @ Sunday, March 30, 2014 8:15 PM by Lloyd
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