May 2012

Are You in Touch with Your Sales Sixth Sense?


by Steve Gareau

I’m no psychology expert, but there’s one aspect of this science that’s benefited me in all my years of sales, especially when it comes to meeting people. We’re all aware of our five senses—sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. But there’s one more sense, talked about by many doctors, psychologists and educators. And I suspect you’ve come into contact with it in some work situations.

Call it a feeling of uneasiness between you and another person, whispering to you to “move on.” Sometimes that voice inside you may be stronger, saying that there’s something wrong with a circumstance and that there’s a different way of dealing with it.

Yes, I’m talking about your “sales sixth sense.” It is that innate intuition we have about people and circumstances which we all possess to some degree, and it’s a skill we can cultivate to help achieve our goals. It doesn’t have to be part of some touchy-feely philosophy—trusting your sixth sense can be incorporated into structured and efficient work practices.

Let’s say you’re with a prospective client. Although you can tell that he or she needs your expertise, uneasiness enters the room. The chances are that if you can feel it, so can the client. That’s your cue to bow out of the situation as gracefully as you can. Leave the door open for a return call at a later date, but move on for now.

Now you might be thinking that it is folly to turn down any business in this economy, and that you are a seasoned professional capable of working through any potential client situation. However, there may be times when your sales sixth sense tells you that a prospective customer is just not the right fit, more trouble than he or she is worth, or that the timing just isn’t right.

You’ll meet countless people during your career, so you need to cultivate an intuition for understanding when a situation will be a no-win one for you. Sometimes you can opt to return to a prospect at a later date, and reassess your earlier conclusions. If you’ve fully developed your sales sixth sense, you’ll be better equipped to handle any issues that come up.

I recall one occasion when I had met with a prospect and had an intuitive feeling that I’d be better off without the business. I chose to listen to that feeling and backed away. I encountered this individual again at a tennis tournament. When we played, winning was all that mattered to him. I have a very strong competitive spirit as well, so my intuition was confirmed—we would not have been a good business fit.

I knew then why that negative feeling had hit me during our earlier sales meeting. The tension I felt then came from that competitive spirit and its clash with my similar spirit—not necessarily the foundation for the kind of cooperative relationship that results in success for all concerned.

Developing Your Sixth Sense

How can you develop your sales sixth sense? Think about the kinds of people you work with well, and those who may not be the best business fit. What are the traits those individuals have in common: are they relaxed and easygoing? Or hard-driving and always pushing? Do you think you will be able to count on them to do what they say, at the pace you may need them to move? Or are they likely to work in a manner that’s not compatible with your comfort zone?

You need to clearly identify character traits in others which preclude a successful working relationship. What are the real deal-breakers for you? When you know what they are, or rather who they are, you’ll know better what business situations you should avoid, or at least postpone for another day. Heed what your sales sixth sense is telling you and step back from situations that don’t work for you. In that way, you will save yourself unnecessary work and grief, saving your energies for successful client engagements and partnerships.

Steve Gareau is the author of Building Your Bridge to Sales Success (Bridge Series Books) available through bookstores and With more than 40 years of entrepreneurial and small business experience, Steve now provides his expertise via consulting, training, speaking and mentoring. Contact him at