How to Have a Sales Conversation Without Feeling Sharky

how to sell without being a sales shark

Do you err on the side of not being assertive enough because you’re afraid you’ll come off as sharky when talking to a potential client?

I know I did. Those early days of business, when I was eager to get clients, yet didn’t really know how to do that. I vacillated between being sharky, AKA sales shark, and not assertive enough. Those were some uncomfortable days to be sure!


What does it mean to feel and act like a sales shark?

  • Being predatory
  • Acting like the stereotype of a used car salesman
  • Not thinking of the client’s needs
  • Trying to get something over on someone; being tricksy
  • Being sleazy
  • Not listening to the client
  • Pursuing a sale for the sake of a sale


As a business owner with a sincere desire to serve your clients, being a sales shark is the last thing you’re interested in. And truth be told, you’re probably not acting that way. Yet when you’re first learning to ask clients if they’d like to work with you, it can be hard to know where the line is.

Here’s what being sharky might look like: you approach someone to talk about your business, and as you begin talking, you’re thinking of what to say next, and how to convince them to work with you. You’re not listening to what they’re saying, you’re just waiting for them to finish talking so you can talk about yourself and your business. Rather than making a genuine connection with them, you’re looking for opportunities to promote yourself. This type of interaction will make the person you’re talking to feel like they’re being talked at rather than talked with, ensuring they won’t be working with you, or recommending you to their friends.


Which suggests the question: How do you avoid being sharky?

Here are three ways you can safeguard against shark-like behavior, and be more attractive to potential clients.

1. Listen to what the other person is saying.

When the other person is talking, quiet your mind and don’t think about what you’re going to say next, even if you’re nervous you’ll forget what you wanted to talk about. Just be present, and keep breathing; it’s the best gift you can give to yourself and the person you’re talking to. If it helps, write your talking points down on a 3 x 5 card. No one will think you’re unprofessional for doing this; I promise!


2. Be yourself.

Let your true personality show. It might feel as though you need to be “business-y,” yet what does that really mean? Being business-y means wearing a clean and neat outfit appropriate for the event, having business cards or a brochure available to share, knowing your talking points (yes, they can be on a 3 x 5 card), and relaxing into the knowledge that you are enough without putting on a front.


3. Believe in the value you bring.

When you sincerely believe that what you’re offering has great value, it creates a quiet confidence in you. That level of confidence means that you can show up as your true self (see above). When you’re confident, you can share your business offerings from a place of passing an hors d’oeuvres tray. Whether the potential client is ready to bite is not about you or what you’re offering.


When talking with a potential client, make your offer without attachment, create a genuine connection, communicate your value, believe in yourself, let your true self shine through, and you’ll be selling shark-free in no time!

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