Like any good salesperson, about once a year I take time to survey and interview my customers (and their customers). Common statements about what makes a good salesman include following up and good customer service. But what seems to be mentioned the most is, "I want a straight shooter, a rep who puts it all on the table with no surprises and no BS."

Simply put, tell it like it is, and you'll reap the benefits. (Better communication, stronger relationships, trust, dependability and an overall comfort level with the partnership.) Here are some insights on how to know if you're telling it like it is.

Are you trying to please everyone?
Let me share a bit of wisdom from Bill Cosby. He said there are many ways to succeed, but "the key to failure is trying to please everybody." And if you think you can please everyone, see Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman. Realistically, there are some people we just can't please. Maybe what we're selling does not fit into their needs at the time, the account is not qualified as a true prospect, or they just don't like you. Great salespeople know when to move on and do not change their values or beliefs for someone just to please them or close the sale. They don't take it personally, either, because there are so many reasons involved in why someone selects you over the competition.

We like reps who have confidence in what they do, what they sell and the value they bring to the sale. We like the ones who have the confidence to share information that others think might jeopardize or cost them the sale (and sometimes it does). But the way you build a strong relationship with a qualified individual is to be straightforward with your advice. I like to be sold that way, and I'm sure you do, also.

Do you tell people what you sell?
Have you ever been pitched (in person or over the phone) by someone, and it takes you several questions to finally figure out what they are selling? It's frustrating and starts the relationship off on the wrong foot.

Sometimes we try to use fancy words because we don't want a response like, "We have one already," or "We don't need any widgets here."

Your pitch should be right to the point and easy to understand. No gimmicks, fancy words or vague statements. Here's an example:

"Hi Steve, I was wondering if you can help me out. I'm with XYZ Company and we sell/market _____."(Tell them exactly what you sell.) "I am trying to reach the person who handles this; who would that be?"

Keep it simple and short. We sell "x" and we've helped companies like yours with (insert your key benefit). They know your name, your company name and what product you sell. Your goal on this initial call is to sell the appointment, not your product.

Do you know when to walk away?
"Lisa, thanks for giving me the time for our meeting today. Based on your budget and requirements I don't think our services would best meet your needs. I'd like to recommend another vendor who would be a terrific fit for what you're looking for."

There is nothing that builds more trust in a relationship then telling your prospect or customer that what you sell is not the best solution for their current situation. Maybe you recommend the competition or another business that carries a better long-term solution. That customer will not only appreciate your candid response but will never again question your advice in the future. In these situations, often they will refer you to some of their contacts, and there is nothing more valuable than that kind of introduction. No one likes losing an opportunity for business. But when that opportunity is a bad fit and you press forward anyway, you risk losing repeat business and something much more valuable, your reputation. I'd much rather lose one battle and win the war.

Do you seek out the superstars?
Every company, every industry has someone who performs at the top of the field. Find out who these people are and try to connect with them; get their advice and emulate their selling style. Their experience will give you valuable lessons on how they "tell it like it is" with their clients (and believe me, they do). I've made it a habit to speak with the top reps in each company I do business with and have always found that they have a style that is bone honest and upfront with their contacts. When you start surrounding yourself with successful people, their strategies and approaches rub off on you.

Being straightforward in your sales approach is a breath of fresh air for most customers. They see you as someone they can trust and always know where you stand. If you want to be great in sales, establish your character first.