A Sales Rep’s Biggest Fault

There is a great scene in the wonderful movie, “A River Runs Through It,” where a father (played by Tom Skerritt) is reviewing the homework done by his oldest son (Craig Schiffer). He peers at the document over his reading glasses while his son nervously fidgets and says, “Half as much” as he hands the paper back to him.

Some time later, the son returns and the critique process repeats. Again, Skerritt hands the page back to Schiffer and dismissingly says, “Half again,” which causes the son to roll his eyes as he goes back to the drawing board.

The third time proved to be a charm and, presumably, the homework consists of a well thought out document using an economy of words as the boy is dismissed to the wonders of the Montana outdoors.

An economy of words.

Very few salespeople I know specialize in using an economy of words. Come to think of it, very few people in general! Most of us, my theory is, formulate their point while they talk and edit on-the-fly. It may be great for them but we, the listener, suffer in the process. Half as much!

The biggest mistake a salesman admits to making is that of talking too much. Isn’t that fascinating? We know it’s a fault and yet we do it. Again and again. The old adage, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Do the math!” applies here.

The advice, “stop talking so much!” is easier said than done. There is an element of Chatty Cathy in all of us, myself included. That’s why we are in sales and not employed as librarians. While you might not be able to control yourself, simply being aware of your own oral diarrhea is a starting point.

If you are face-to-face with someone, read their body language as you speak. If the recipient’s eyes are glassing over, it’s not because they are hanging on your every word. Remember, it is possible to make your point by engaging the customer in conversation and make it a dialogue instead of a monologue.

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."
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  • Kristen Quinn

    I love "have more unspoken thoughts." What a great lesson!

  • John Prothero

    I love the movie "River Runs Through It", and that scene in particular. Yes, let’s have some more unspoken thoughts!

  • James Jepsen

    This is the unposted comment.

  • Marc Zazeela


    One of the best writing tips I have heard is to write your piece and then cut out half of the words. I think the same process works quite well with spoken words too.

    A master communicator can get make their points with a minimum of words.