The aspirational virtues and professionalism demanded of sales leaders.
People tend to hold a negative stereotype in mind for thinking about those who sell. We all know that salespeople are paid to persuade us to buy whatever they are selling. Yet good salespeople - sales leaders, and they are many, make a tremendous contribution to prosperity.
This series of short perspectives chisel out the positive attitudes and virtues coveted by those sellers who contribute the most value from both the employer and customer point of view.
Selling is about . . Leadership
Salespeople must be prepared to lead. To step out with an unshakable certainty.
Leaders lead with the consent of their followers. Leading others where they want to go, is a vital service.
Leadership is something practiced in a moment of other people's need.
Some people are called on to lead more than others because they are willing.
Leading comes with inherent risk, uncertainty, and anguish. Sales leaders are exposed. Together with potential for fortuitous glory comes the equal chance of accidental blame.
Sellers must lead, or merely offer alternatives and stand by while others put their reputations in peril.
Selling is about . . Empathy for Feelings, Dreams, and Aspirations
The ability to shut down personal agenda and listen to the song of another's heart grants anyone revered power.
Those who know our heart can shift out thinking.
Empathy comes from a combination of several skills and a lot of experience. Truly listening to another person is a good starting point.
Listening for intent is a tacit skill, difficult to teach because attentive listening is the teacher. Listening for non verbal signals and observing subtle body language is an innate competence that people seem to readily switch off or ignore.
Reading people might be thought of as a sinister thing yet how can better understanding ever be a bad thing?. Sales leaders must read people to do their best by them.
Selling is about . . Choosing What to Do
Doing things right is a waste of time if we don't first choose the right things to do. At first this doesn't seem too hard to do. There are simple qualification prompts like 'Money', 'Authority', and 'Need'.
'MAN up' is the youth culture taunt of the moment!
Peeling back the layers, their are three fundamental questions about any sales opportunity.
1. Will it really happen? So many sales fizzle out.
2. Can we win? This is an often overlooked question because it is so difficult to answer. A salesperson's natural optimism gets in the way.
3. Will it be worthwhile? Assuming so has led to many a disaster, when the cost of winning turned out to be higher than the margin.
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Selling is about . . Doing More than Anyone Would Expect
Selling provides plenty of scope for hard work. A first step might involve making yourself a product, service, solution, market, industry, and customer expert.
A big step that seems to require re-learning on a regular basis is the ability to shut up an truly listen to others. This is harder than you might think, especially if you carry a big ego.
From the outside a sales job might seem like a lot of swanning around talking to folks and buying lunches - schmoozing. In fact, like most jobs, 90% of it is research, learning, administration, and rejection.
Results correspond to the effort invested in these things, particularly rejection. "Fail forward faster" says Tom Peters. Sales leaders who want more success, have to endure more failure.
Selling - an easy life? If you love doing the things that others don't like doing, perhaps.
Selling is about . . Making People Feel Comfortable
Can you tell when someone makes an effort to make you feel welcome, liked, respected, and appreciated? This is why customer facing people are asked to smile and engage customers in small talk. You may have noticed that the small talk has become standard practice for some supermarket checkout staff.
A standard 'nice' response is not necessarily going to make someone feel comfortable. In fact just being nice can have the opposite of the intended effect. Making people feel comfortable requires some focused attention rather than an automatic response. People can tell if a person is genuinely concerned for their comfort. It shows in the body language and sounds in auditory non verbal cues.
Anyone can pretend. Sales leaders must make themselves genuine.
Selling is about . . Creative Effort and Energy
Salespeople promote what could become true in the future. It takes creative energy to project an idea and then sustain it through inevitable criticism and propel it forward over obstacles.
Customers often need this supporting energy to help overcome their own disbelief, reservations, and fear.
This is true for individuals and organisations. People resist change, even change they initiate.
Businesses are collections of people doing things in traditional comfortable ways. From the inside looking out, newness in terms of changing procedures and behaviours threatens to upset too much. Yet failure to reinvent and continually push the boundaries of what's possible leads to stagnation and decline.
Sales leaders must be change agents.
Sales Perspectives by Clive Miller
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