Why the Smartest Guy in the Room Isn’t

To sell effectively, you need to know some things. You need the business acumen that allows you to connect the value you create to your dream client’s problems and challenges. You also need the situational knowledge that helps you to make the distinctions that ensure you can help your dream client to obtain their desired outcome.

You have to be super smart. But you never have to prove you are the smartest guy in the room.

Discounting Other People’s Ideas and Feelings

One sure fire way to lose friends and alienate your dream clients is to discount their ideas and their feelings.

It’s dangerous to prove that you have the right ideas if it means that you have to block out your dream client’s ideas and feelings about what the right solution might need. Being so confident in the right answer that you dismiss other people’s thoughts, concerns, ideas, and suggestions looks like arrogance.

The worst part is that you may not even know that you are doing it.

Other people can tell that you are discounting their ideas and that you don’t care about their feelings when you dismiss their ideas and when you ignore what they have said and move on to your own “better” ideas.

That Smug Look on Your Face

People also know that you believe you are the smartest guy in the room by the smug, patronizing look on your face. Your body language and your facial expressions give away the fact that you believe other people’s ideas aren’t as good or as valuable as your own.

It can be as simple as a little smile that betrays your thoughts, or it can be the fact that you aren’t really paying deep attention to what they are saying; you are already thinking about your next great contribution.

You also give yourself away when you respond with short, monosyllabic responses to other people’s ideas and statements. You can’t fake full engagement, and being disengaged means that you really don’t care about other people.

The Dumbest Guy in the Room

When it comes to your dream client relationships, there can’t be anything dumber than believing or behaving like you are the smartest guy in the room.

There is very little likelihood that you know as much about your dream client’s problems, challenges, and opportunities as do they. There isn’t any possible way you know more about how they feel than they do.

Even if you know how to help, and even you have the right ideas, how you bring others to those ideas counts far more than simply having the ideas. And how you make people feel about themselves, their ideas, their feelings, their thoughts, and their concerns will determine whether you win or lose—and whether you can implement the change you sell.

Making other people feel small is stupid.

Your dream client is trying to identify someone that can help them move beyond their current state to an imagined future, and they can’t imagine adding someone to their team who is arrogant enough to behave as if they are the smartest guy in the room.

If you are dumb enough to prove you are the smartest person in the room, know that your dream client is smart enough to choose someone else.



  • Damian Thompson

    I see this sometimes with reps that are not truly listening to the prospect and understanding what the issues, concerns, or problems are but are simply waiting for their turn to speak.

    • Anonymous

      I could hardly wait to finish reading your comment so that I could respond, Damian! What did you say?

      It’s funny how much more powerful listening is than speaking. But then we sometimes get it backwards and think that it’s the next statement out of our mouths that are going to influence the client in our direction. Good questions and the ability to listen are better than most statements.

  • Ralph Bastarache

    Well said! I have witnessed the smug look (I admit that it has been on my face too) and the clients’ reactions to it. For me it comes down to genuinely caring about the client instead of being focused on a commission check.

    I constantly coach sales people to listen and to not assume they “know” what is important to their clients. Thank you for reaffirming my efforts.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Anybody who is honest or thoughtful can admit to being guilty of this from time to time–especially when you are a subject matter expert. But, it doesn’t do much to win friends and influence people, does it.

      There is no substitute for caring, and listening is the ultimate act of caring.

      Thanks for your comments, Ralph!

  • Brad Stewart

    You’re right on target with this one. The guy who believes he knows everything can’t learn anything and if you don’t believe you need to learn anything you’ll never fully understand how to be the right solution for your client(s). The most important thing you’re doing during a sales call/meeting is learning.

    • Anonymous

      Spot on, Mr. Stewart! Your dream client will teach you what you need to know . . . provided you are open to learning.

  • marc zazeela

    Good advice Anthony. First rule of thumb, shut up and listen. Second rule of thumb, shut up and REALLY listen.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      No doubt, you are correct! Says that you REALLY care!