Really Bad Selling: The Audacity of Arrogance

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By Allan Boress, CPA, CVA - The current political scene offers all of us free sales training if you pay attention and know what to look for.

Personal chemistry is 50 – 80% of making the sale of professional services, whether you are trading in CPA services, finance consulting or votes. People hire people they like.

Sometimes this chemistry exists from the get-go. I just left a meeting with a new client and his wife; we hit it off quite well as we had so much in common: from the Midwest, same age range and similar views on money and life. This occurs perhaps 25% of the time for all of us. The rest of the time the seller has to work at creating the feelings that will have the client feeling comfortable, confident and want to buy.

In The “I-Hate-Selling” Book, I discuss the many different ways there is to create personal chemistry. One way, is to see yourself as the client’s peer; to see them as your equal. If you don’t, if you are perceived as looking down at the client, you are perceived as being arrogant.

Then you lose.

Nixon was arrogant, as was President Johnson; thus they were unpopular. Reagan was humble, as is President Bush. This is one reason he beat Al Gore in 2000. Gore speaks to people as if they are idiots. As did Kerry. Clinton was arrogant, but in private. In public, he was golden.

Apparently arrogance is difficult to control, but Mr. Clinton was a master salesman. Mrs. Clinton can’t help herself.

Although McCain comes from privilege, he doesn’t come across that way. Nor does Mrs. Palin, which is one reason she has taken the country by storm.

The public likes her because they see her as someone similar to themselves. And they don’t like it when arrogant people are being haughty with her. Did you see Charles Gibson stare down his nose and reading glasses at her as if she was a petulant child? The McCain camp loved it.

Also, it seems the more we get to see Mr. Obama in action, the more in love with himself he appears. Joe Biden? His remark about being the smartest person in the room still haunts him twenty years later.

What does this have to do with CPAs? Simple, we can be arrogant without realizing it, and we are selling all day long.

How about you? Don’t return calls promptly – or emails? Talk down to staff? Bill clients without explanation? Cut people down at meetings? Perceived arrogance.

And you lose. Just like they might.

By Allan Boress, CPA, CVA – author of The I-Hate-Selling Audio CDs, available at

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