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The “secrets” of sales success?

Amazingly, I still receive a stream of advertisements, articles and promotional material promising to reveal “The Secrets” that will guarantee success in sales. As Jeff Foxworthy, well-known ‘Red Neck' comedian, said of Victoria's Secret (purveyors of sexy/scanty lingerie): “Victoria's Secret doesn't have a whole lot of secrets anymore.” I suspect that this applies, at least in some degree, to sales as well.
But life isn't quite that simple. First, different types of sales roles require very different skills and presumably “secrets”. For example, a strategic account manager is a very different creature from an outbound telesales agent and these roles require completely different skills.

Secondly, sales, in its various stages of evolution, has been around since the dawn of organised commerce and has been extensively documented since then. So there shouldn't be too many secrets left. But are there? Or is your average salesperson so ill-informed, uneducated and untrained that well known, widely used tools and techniques can be presented as “secrets”?

If this is the case, it is a sad reflection of our profession.

All this being said, there probably are approaches, tools and methods that might appear as revelations to many salespeople. Some examples might be:

  • Understanding and use of body language in sales situations.
  • Understanding and using neuro linguistic programming (NLP) as a sales tool. (Anyone seen Derren Brown on YouTube?)
  • The use of powerful and elegant software to identify and quantify value drivers that support robust business case development and enable suppliers to track the value they deliver through their solutions (see

None of these are new, nor are they “secrets.” However they are rarely used and represent a real opportunity for energetic and intellectually curious salespeople.

About Peter Gilbert

A sales veteran with over 30 years of experience, Peter Gilbert is MD of HR Chally SA (, an international sales consulting company specialising in talent management and recruitment. He is passionate about sales as a profession and the identification of real sales talent who can really sell! Email him at