Are You a Sales Apologist?

After a recent keynote, one of the attendees came up to me and said, “Thank you for your message today. I am tired of feeling as if I need to apologize for anything I do that seems like sales.” This particular man is an employee of a large nonprofit, and he knows, as many others do, that the nature of what he does and his organization’s success (not to mention his personal success) is rooted in his ability to sell – but shhhh, don’t tell anyone! So besides the very nice validation of my message, his comments made me begin to think about people who are sales apologists – those people who sell every day (everyone) and deny it (almost everyone). Hey I get it! I do! There are times that we don’t want to come off as “salesy” or selling in some way, and that affects the way we interact with people and the way we deliver the message we need to deliver. The fact is that selling is a common thread. We sell ourselves, our goals and needs every day. I have been saying this for years, and it’s now time to ask, “Are you a sales apologist?”

Here are some ways to decide if you are a sales apologist! Ready?

  • Do you feel squeamish when asking someone for something, such as money, a donation, or a favor? Do you think to yourself “I hate to sound salesy”? If so – get OVER it.  Now. Relationships mean you have earned the right to ask for things that are important to you and others!
  • Have you ever been speaking about your accomplishments during a job interview only to suddenly realize with that uncomfortable feeling that “Oh my gosh, I am selling myself”? Yes you are. Relish it and enjoy it. It’s your moment, and you better sell yourself well!
  • Ever had to present something to your peers or your boss but found yourself hesitating because you don’t want come across as (GASP) selling this idea and (HEAVEN FORBID) worrying that this could somehow dilute the brilliance of that idea? Listen up and listen well – being technically proficient is not enough anymore – you have to get in there and sell your beliefs and ideas or your competition will.
  • Here’s my favorite! I just love it when people are selling and then add at the end “and listen, I am not trying to sell you….” Yes you are! It’s okay! Every conversation has a selling component to it because in every single conversation you have, people are deciding on you and whether they relate and possibly want to have a relationship with you.

What’s the moral of the story? If you’re apologizing for selling, stop being a sales apologist. You sell every day and in more ways than you realize. Embrace the obvious and get out there and make your mark. “If you build it they will come” no longer applies. It’s now, “If I build it, will they come?” The answer is “yes” if you can sell it – and stop apologizing for that!

9 thoughts on “Are You a Sales Apologist?”

  1. Surya Prakash Arya

    Well it happens often, what really matters is the final outcome. One may be skeptical in the beginning, but then a decision has to be taken for self selling

  2. You are right. We sell all the time. If you have bulit a strong relationship with whoever you are selling to it won’t seem like selling. The trust you have developed in that relationship will make the conversation a comfortable one.

  3. It’s important to earn/recognize your right to ask for the business. It’s also important to remember there’s a difference between being confident & conceited!

  4. Todd: thanks for writing and posting this great blog. We’re kindred in the belief that salespeople aren’t served by being apologists. But there’s so much negativity about the selling profession, it’s hard to avoid. What’s particularly troubling to me is how much of the negativity is inflicted by salespeople (and their managers) themselves. The messaging is rampant: “I’m just a salesperson.” “Don’t be too salesy.” “Stop selling, start listening.” (as if these were two mutually-exclusive activities!)

    Nobody in the sales profession is served by this constant self-loathing. To counter some of the negative sentiment, I began an annual series of blogs that champion great sales professionals. I just posted the latest one, “But Wait, There’s More!” Seven Great Salespeople Who Continue to Inspire.” It’s on my blog, The Contrary Domino (

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