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Tips to Be Assertive in Sales

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Being assertive as a salesperson is a requirement to thrive in a competitive economy. There's a difference, however, between being assertive and being aggressive, which can turn off potential clients. Learning how to navigate between the two -- while not falling into complacency -- is a key component of successful sales.

Aggressive vs. Assertive

The word "assertive" sometimes gets a bad rap because people confuse it with "aggressive." Assertive simply implies confidence and a strong belief in your product. Aggressive, however, is more antagonistic and can turn people off. An aggressive sales tactic would be insisting that a decision is made right now or stating an urgent deadline. A comment like "This offer expires when I leave the room" is aggressive. Assertive, on the other hand, doesn't use heavy-handed pressure, but instead creates a spirit of discussion. For example, an assertive question would be, "What steps are necessary to help you make a decision?"

Believe in the Product and the Customer

Assertiveness begins within yourself. Know your product inside and out. Believe in yourself and what your product offers. Don't just believe it's a good product, but believe that there's nothing better and that it will vastly improve customers' lives. Believe that your meeting will likely have a positive outcome and this will influence your entire demeanor during your appointment. An assertive salesman not only believes in his product, he believes in his customer. Focus on the customer by understanding his needs and wanting a win for him.

Body Language

Assertive body language starts the minute you walk in the door. Make steady eye contact, have a firm handshake and smile confidently. If you're offered anything like water or coffee, gratefully accept it to begin establishing rapport. When you're seated, lean forward slightly. These actions show that you're confident and self-assured -- necessary components to being assertive.

Setting Up a Follow-Up

If you don't make a sale during your first meeting, the need for assertiveness will come into play again in the form of a follow-up. A passive salesperson would end a meeting by saying, "Call me when you're interested in this product or when you want more information." An assertive salesperson, on the other hand, will get permission to follow up but also leave the actions in his court. For example, you could ask, "What's the best way for me to stay in contact with you?"


With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.

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Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images