The salesperson’s eight kinds of intelligence

Aug 23, 18 | by Benoit Mahé

The job of a salesperson who deals with the public requires great intelligence and different kinds of intelligence. Sometimes these are jobs without great social status (“I didn’t study and so I became a salesperson”).

I believe a salesperson displays a range of intelligence types. Let’s analyze this perfect example:


Sunday 11:15, Bar El Urogallo, Casa de Campo Lake, Madrid, Spain.

I had just finished a two-hour run with my fellow club members. In the final few kilometers, which can sometimes be the most difficult, I was motivated by the breakfast I would soon be having in El Urogallo, a bar that is an institution in Madrid. As we get there, we realize that we are not the only ones with this idea. The bar is full of sportsmen and women. There must have been some twenty people standing at the counter, all of them obviously impatient to recharge their batteries. Behind the counter is Marcelo, “the Cristiano Ronaldo of the cappuccino”, “the Messi of the toasted baguette”.

A customer shouts out: “A cappuccino with warm milk and toast with marmalade” Another cries out, “Orange juice and a croissant”. While another asks, “Can I get a portion of Spanish omelette, a small beer and a glass of tap water?”

From behind the juicer, Marcelo tells his colleague just once, “A cappuccino”. His colleague hears and in a whirlwind of activity, after just a few seconds, your order arrives, all correct! What makes Marcelo and his colleagues in this commercial sphere such geniuses? What makes their performance so exceptional?

The way that they demonstrate the mastery of commerce, the sum of the point-of-sale salesperson. I shall use the model of Howard Gardner’s eight kinds of intelligence to analyze how a waiter, just like a store salesman, can display certain intellectual gifts:

  • Logical intelligence: Ten minutes after serving an order, Marcelo remembers what each person had asked for and can work out in his head the check and the POS. He has a precise and numerical memory. A good storekeeper or salesperson has a mastery of numbers.


  • Linguistic intelligence: His language with the other waiters is precise and even codified. He’s very efficient, only speaking once. His voice cuts through the ambient noise.


  • Corporeal intelligence: The retail trade is one which is done standing up. It’s a physical, almost sporting challenge. Marcelo has a strong biological rhythm, which is at least comparable to that of my fellow runners. Marcelo did not let his shoulders drop forward, as I have seen in many establishments. There’s no huff and puff, but rather, he emits positive energy. He also goes at the same rhythm as his colleagues. All of them are synchronized, sharing a fine sense of humor, as if this were a speeded-up orchestra.


  • Musical intelligence: Marcelo has a precise, perfectly tuned ear. He can recognize twenty different tones of voice and connect with them in just a few seconds, concentrating on a person to understand their order and transmitting his presence and energy. Retail needs people who are equipped and trained to listen.


  • Spatial intelligence: Three people in 3 m2 or 4 m2 behind the bar, taking full advantage of the height available (cups and glasses on 2-meter-high shelving). Marcelo moves within a three-dimensional space that he dominates (it would give many others vertigo).


  • Naturalistic intelligence: This intelligence is typical of people who recognize and can distinguish plants and animals in nature. In the case of the ‘bar fauna’, Marcelo can distinguish between twenty strangers, treating each person differently as well as recognize regular customers.


  • Interpersonal intelligence:In this example of energy management, Marcelo is aided by his great communicative humor. In the brief moment between serving two coffees, Marcelo can glance at you and fire off a joke, a well-judged turn of phrase. He exudes joy in being ‘right here, right now’.


  • Intrapersonal intelligence: This is a person’s self-awareness, their ability to reflect upon themselves. In Marcelo’s case, his self-esteem is outstanding, a characteristic of his high level of intrapersonal intelligence. It is also worth highlighting just how on top of things Marcelo is. His level of concentration is formidable. While I was there I saw a friend-customer come in and greet him. Marcelo responded in just two seconds before returning to what he had been doing.


He gives the very best of his cognitive, kinesthetic, emotional and intellectual abilities to serve coffees from behind the bar. And he wears a traditional uniform. (Sometimes we want to reinvent and innovate, when sometimes it can be best to stick with tradition.) Marcelo wears the traditional waiter’s uniform, with a metal badge bearing his name. A real gent. Chapeau Monsieur Marcelo!

I wanted to analyze the waiter’s eight intelligence types in some detail, as representative of a store salesperson, highlighting the intellectual processes in play for both.

My advice: the next time someone is scathing about your work as a salesman or woman, take them for toast and coffee with Marcelo.


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