When you think of the word: “sales” or “salesperson” what comes to mind? Chances are it is not a positive image? Why? If your role in your organization is that of a salesperson, sales manager, or sales leader how can we stand out and differentiate ourselves in a market full of salespeople? In this post I will share a methodology I have used for years to grow sales faster and more profitably than my competitors…being authentic.
Would it surprise you to learn what we think about ourselves has a huge impact on how we communicate and relate to others?
Let me ask you…Who do you think you are supposed to be?
When you think of the word “salesman” or “salesperson” you may (like most people) have a negative image of sales. Chances are this belief was established at some time in your past as the result of a negative sales experience.
I heard David Meerman Scott speak at a marketing and sales conference and he asked two simple questions:
How many people here like to buy stuff?….
Every hand in the room was raised!
How many people like to be sold?…
Almost every hand went down. Why?
For years when we heard the word “sales” we think of a manipulation. The salesperson wins and I loose somehow.
So I looked on the Internet and asked “why we hate salespeople”, why we don’t trust salespeople?
One article seemed to sum it up.
- Has a lack of transparency (they’re in it for the sale!)
- Is not trustworthy
- May not honor their promises
- Might not be selling me the right product/services for my needs
- Does not understand my needs
- Is too pushy
Author Perter Smith shares Why do we hate ( our own) sales people…
“Have you ever noticed that in a company there often seems to be jealously, almost bordering on hatred, for the company’s own sales team? “
“A myth I see in a lot of companies is that the sales reps are overpaid, underworked and often only a bystander to the sale. “
I speak in local colleges in the area quite often. I asked a room of soon to be graduating seniors how many plan to go into sales? Not one hand raised in a room of 40. So I ask college seniors why,… why they do not want to be a salesperson and here are some of their common responses and perceptions…
- Salespeople sell us things we don’t need, I do not feel I can do that
- I did not go to college and spend what I did to become a salesperson
- I don’t want to travel and be away from home very night
- I don’t want the pressure to hit a goal
- I don’t like dealing with unhappy customers
Their comments go on and on, and each has one thing in common they are all negative!
What I found interesting about these articles and what college seniors believe is they captured how many people feel about sales, and how some salespeople feel they need to be to be successful.
Could it be that what we think about what sales is, is shaping our behavior, communication, and how we relate to buyers?
I believe it does.
When we ask buyers why they don’t buy…
I did not trust what the salesperson proposed would solve my problem…
I feel salesperson is more focused on hitting their goals than helping me..
I found another article: Why buyers do not like salespeople?
“Most salespeople bring to their buyers only information. Interestingly, information is something any buyer can gather from other sources. At the end of the day, you as a salesperson must ask yourself, “Am I merely a conduit of information?” If you are, then you’re wasting your time, your company’s time, and your customer’s time.”
What do buyers want?
“…you need to develop questions to which you don’t have answers. More than likely, these will be questions to which your buyer doesn’t have answers either. By asking these questions, you’re helping move the buyer to viewing you differently. Your role is to be seen as the one salesperson who is genuinely committed to helping them move themselves and their company to a higher level. This may be by growing their sales or helping them reduce their costs.”
What if we looked at this as an opportunity to create a distinctive competence in the market?
What if we listened to these perceptions and developed a strategy to stand out in the market and be unique?
What kind of salesperson would business leaders, customers, and graduating seniors want to be?
An authentic human being who has an interest in helping buyers identify and solve problems. ..Someone I can trust.
How do we change this?
“With trust, like-ability, and the feeling that they know you – you’ve got the winning combination for higher sales conversions, more repeat business, greater profits, and a windfall of referrals.”
“Differentiate and grow your sales with: Authentic Communication.”
-Mark Allen Roberts
What you think about yourself shapes how you communicate with others and the relationships you build. Over time we experience interactions both positive and negative. How we often adapt to those situations is to create masks. This concept of creating masks based on who we think we are supposed to be, or what others expect is something we all do. Masks are also created as protective defense mechanisms. The trouble with masks is they interrupt authentic human communication. If you are wearing a mask and your buyer is wearing a mask you never get to the real issues to be solved (as I shared in a post about the iceberg principle) and never build a meaningful relationship.
If you think salespeople are manipulative commission junkies who win orders and customers loose…that is how you will act.
If you treat your salespeople like pushy salespeople who are only out for themselves…that is how they will act.
However, if we start seeing sales, as I do as the ultimate act of service, helping your customers identify and solve problems, how you interact with buyers will change.
Its time for the Authentic Sales and Service!
Its time to stop wearing masks you think your buyers want to see or you think your companies want you to wear and be your authentic self and serve others. Buyers can sense a mask a mile away and will never open up to you.
Sales is about acts of service not trick-or -treat.
Being an authentic sales service partner focused on helping your customers identify and solve problems will become your distinction in a sea of other salespeople playing trick-or-treat.
You will become that salesperson buyers can’t wait to meet with, and value. Because buyers trust you and your motivations and they will want to have a relationship with you and give you more business. Buyers will share their burning issues and problems the other trick-or-treaters never hear.
When this occurs you sell more, gain more referrals, you sell based on the value you create and your gross margins increase and your company will notice your contribution.
Sales is a difficult but very rewarding profession. I have used the above advice for over 15 years and driven profitable sales growth for many sales teams.
Still not a believer?
Below is what the Vice President of one of my past top customers wrote about my acts of service …
“Mark is an awesome example of understanding what it takes to build success – focus on your personal relationship with anyone you’re attempting to do business with, and all the rest will follow. People want to conduct business with people they trust and feel are adding value – two traits Mark exhibits every time you have contact with him. He truly wants you to be successful – not just lip service for his own gain – and will help in any way he can to assist that “.
Or another customer wrote…
“Mark’s infectious personality is evident from the moment you meet him. Everyone wants to work with a professional who is a strong communicator, team member, who has strong interpersonal skills such as empathy, tact and humor. He is intellectual, innovative and creative. He is always a pleasure to work with. You won’t be disappointed when working for or with Mark”
It feels like I’m bragging… so I’ll quit.
My goal in sharing the above comments is to better capture how your customer partners can feel when someone is authentically committed to serving them and their business. (If you think the above quotes are a fluke, you can read over 60 more similar comments on my LinkedIn profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/markaroberts/)
Its time for salespeople to be proud of the contribution they make for their organizations.
Its time for business leaders who may have seen salespeople as a necessary evil in the past due to bad experiences to value their contribution today.
Its time salespeople become committed to understanding and solving buyer problems.
Its time for we, as salespeople to drop the masks we wear and be authentic with our customers and improve or acts of service and relationships.
One final point, whatever your formal title is, I hate to be the one who tells you this… you are a salesperson. When you are convincing your operations team to stay over time you are selling. When you are at home with your spouse trying to take that cruise vacation instead of touring New England towns…you are selling. As the quality manager working with the auditor to win your ISO certification…you are selling. When you are meeting with new employees to join your team you are selling. As a sales leader working with a salesperson that is not hitting goals you are selling. When you are meeting with your board and investors and discussing how you plan to hit your numbers this year you are selling! Now that we are all in sales…what do you think of salespeople?
It is time for us all to change what we think about sales and salespeople!
Should we create a new title perhaps? …Customer Solutions Advocate
It’s time we all drop our previous beliefs about sales and salespeople and masks we created and start having authentic meaningful conversations that build trust early and often.
When you hear the word “salespeople” how does it make you feel?
Do your customers value your salespeople?
What masks are your salespeople wearing today?…hows that working for you?
If you are a salesperson, are you being your authentic self or wearing masks you think your buyers and your company want you to wear?
As the leader of your company do you see salespeople playing a critical role in helping you achieve your sales and profit goals or a necessary evil?
Would you like to have your customers making comments about your salespeople like those above about me?
Who do you think sells more and at higher margins…someone authentically committed to serving their customers or a salesperson wearing the mask of a commission junkie?
The market is hungry for authentic service providers who are authentic and solve market problems. It starts with how we think of the profession of sales and how we treat our salespeople and buyers.