What Do You Really Think of Salespeople?
It’s an interesting question.
A new sales coaching client this week was wrestling with generating sales for her start up business. Even though she really wants to make her new venture successful and knows in her mind that she needs to generate revenue, I could see something was holding her back. I suspected that a big part of this was connected to her strong, positive identification with her previous profession.
I knew it would make her uncomfortable, but unless we got her challenge on the table, our session would be wasted. The elephant in the room was her opinion of sales people, and what had “plugged her in” was when I asked her about her sales philosophy. Turns out, she has such a low opinion of sales people, that the thought of becoming one had her in tremendous conflict.
When I asked her to describe salespeople, she said words like “pushy, irritating, dishonest, loud”. When I asked her to describe people in her previous profession, she shared qualities such as “honest, hard working, caring, good listeners”.
While she won’t be the last person to describe sales people this way, to really help her, I needed to help her build a new frame around this or she was never going to sell anyone anything. And her business would go broke pretty quickly. Not good for her, not good for all of the prospective clients she’d be able to help.
So we linked the qualities she identified with from her previous profession, and reminded her that she is still that person, albeit now she has a way of helping many more people than ever. That she will still need all of the qualities she is proud of, the skills she’s honed over the last 15 years. Now however, we were going to add some additional skill sets, processes and thinking.
She was happy with that.
Then I asked her: “What if we swapped (name of her old profession) to business owner? Could she identify with that?”
“What else will we need to add to this list if we change the descriptor to successful business owner?” Words like systems, clients, revenue, marketing, profitable, sales knowledge all started to be added to her list.
Then and only then could we move on to ideal client profile, how to build her sales funnel, sales process and metrics, collateral and targets.
Because I have to say I feel sad whenever the association with salespeople isn’t positive. Yes, we’ve all had terrible sales experiences, but we’ve all had terrible experiences with doctors but we don’t generalize that to all doctors. We’ve all had bad service at a restaurant, but we don’t vow to never eat out again. So why do sales people get special treatment?
My sales philosophy is that I’m there to create value, and the best way I can determine that is to work with people with whom there is a fit: skills, values, sales culture, philosophy, goals. I’m not in the convince/persuade variety at all.
My goal is to create the opportunity for my prospective clients to convince me of my value to them. Then and only then will it work, because they’re in, they want to partner, and together we can achieve their goal. I love being able to do that, and enjoy the process along the way.
I’m on a mission for all salespeople to know their why and live it with every customer interaction with humility and finesse. But it comes with a warning….it’s addictive. And going back to lazy sales will never ever again be an option.