One third of consumers have negative view of salespeople, study finds


New research from business services company, Grass Roots, reveals over a third of consumers (35%) has a negative view of the sales profession, compared to just 18% with a positive view.  

The research also shows knowledge is ranked as the most important attribute of a salesperson, followed by helpfulness and professionalism.  

The findings provide insight into how the profession is perceived and can help in the development of training, measurement and suitable reward programmes for salespeople, said Grass Roots.

The research was revealed at Fit For The Future: Sales Through The Looking Glass, an industry event jointly hosted by Grass Roots, The Institute of Sales & Marketing (ISMM) and Aston Business School. The event focused on the public’s perceptions of sellers, how these can be influenced and what organisations can do to differentiate their salespeople.

Other research findings include the specific factors that most influence the decision to buy. Two thirds of respondents (66%) said price combined with value for money had the greatest impact, while 31% felt the quality of a product was most important. Meanwhile, 60% of those surveyed said good product knowledge was the single most important factor to them as a customer in terms of the salesperson’s input. A quarter said trustworthiness and 12% cited a good rapport.

The key discussion points centred around the different perspectives from which organisations approach the customer experience, depending on whether they are sales- or service-led, the role of commission and incentives in the sales profession and the tensions between online and store sales are facing many retailers today.

Louise Hutchins, service experience and quality manager at Marks & Spencer, said: “It has been insightful to learn how other industries/retailers drive sales and what we can learn from each other. I would have liked the session to be longer.”

Ian Luxford, learning services director, Grass Roots, said: “In partnering with Aston Business School and the ISMM to carry out the research, we had three main objectives. Firstly, it was an opportunity to find clarity among the myths, especially those about the role of salespeople in the buying process. Second, it was a chance to inform and enhance successful selling. Lastly, it could give us a mechanism to improve the standing of the profession. Our results provide valuable insights into the areas where salespeople can make a big impact on performance by just being a little more in tune with customers’ real needs.”

Stephen Wright, commercial director, ISMM, said: “The research reveals a very strong customer voice – more than 3,000 people – telling us salespeople are not majoring on what they could do best. It was very encouraging to have such a cross-section of industries attending the event. Delegates responsible for sales, operations, service quality, learning and development and the customer experience shared their experiences and debated how the sales profession could improve in the future.” 

Nick Lee, professor of marketing and organisational research, Aston Business School, said: “Overall, we in the sales community should be concerned about the research findings – it is in everyone’s interest to want sales to be viewed as being more professional and there is much we can do to achieve this. Our survey provides an indication of where we need to improve perceptions of our profession.” 

For further information regarding the learning and measurement services offered by Grass Roots go to