Many years ago when I first started teaching sales in my seminars and workshops, I got the idea to have some of my long-term clients do an in-person survey. Their assignment was to go to a public place like a mall or busy street with a clipboard in their hands and to walk up to people and ask them if they would mind answering one question for a business survey. The question was, “When I say the word salesperson – what words come to mind?”
Now this wasn’t an original idea of mine. Legend has it that it had been done years before by what was then called The New York Sales & Marketing Executive Association. The point of the survey was to make salespeople aware they had an image problem because most of the responses were derogatory. Responses would be words like pushy, car sales, disinterested, not genuine, interested in one thing – themselves, and worse. There were some positive response but the overwhelming majority was negative.
This was meant to be a wake-up call for my clients and from there we’d start talking about focusing on providing value for the client and how to provide it. I would teach them about how to establish relationships and the value of knowing what questions to ask.
That was back in the eighties. What about now? Has the perception of salespeople changed for the better – or has it gotten worse? I suspect that if we did the same survey today, we’d get about the same results. What does that mean for you if you are a salesperson? The good news is it isn’t going to take much to separate yourself from the herd. This is a great opportunity for you if you know how (or learn how) to focus on providing value for your customers. And, by value, I mean what the customer values – not what you value. It’s been this way since the beginning of time when someone made the very first sale.
Why the poor perception of salespeople and why do so many of them fail? Why do so many new businesses fail? I think fear is the number one reason. Fear of failure, fear of not knowing how to make next months rent or car payment, fear of disappointing someone, fear of not making their quota, fear of being fired, fear of so many things that are personal and yet in-common with human beings.
The question then is how do we deal with fear and still be a successful salesperson. The answer is to focus on your clients. Focus on their needs and, more importantly these days, their wants. Maybe it’s a way to save them time or to allow them to enjoy time with their families. Maybe it’s a way to protect them – to help them with their fears. It could be a way to let them have what they always wanted and can now afford. Sometimes it is providing answers to their questions faster than anyone else ever cared to provide. Often, it is just letting them know you care about them as a human being.
It can be many things but they all have one thing in common – it is what your customer values enough to give you money in exchange. But, you’ll never know what they value unless they trust you enough to tell you. And, that doesn’t happen to salespeople who are thought of as being pushy, disinterested, and only interested in making a buck for themselves.
Maybe you are thinking you have salespeople working for you and this is what they need to focus on. You’d only be partially right. If you are in business you are a salesperson first and foremost. If you think you’re not “that type” you had better learn to be – and quickly. I don’t know any successful business owners who weren’t evangelists for their company.
And, please, for those of you who sell for a living and interact face-to-face or by phone with your customers, stop calling yourself a marketing person. I know you might feel better about that title but you are a salesperson. Become the best in the world.
Look in the mirror when you get up tomorrow and say, “I’m a salesperson and today I will focus 100% on providing value to my clients. I will ask the right questions and I’ll establish trust and a relationship before I ever talk about my products and services. I will make a personal commitment to be the best at what I do. Success will be mine because of the relationships I establish with my customers.”
And, remember, sales really isn’t a four letter word!
Bob Poole can be reached toll free at 877-945-3837 or email him at [email protected]