Today's blog post is by Sharon Parker, a 30-year sales professional and trainer, and the author of Selling with Soul, Version 2.0: Achieving Career Success without Sacrificing Personal Integrity or Spiritual Growth, available in hard and soft cover and ebook formats.
When I ask people to describe a salesperson, I get the usual: pushy, greedy, self-serving, dishonest – and these answers come from salespeople! The biggest challenge I face in teaching B2B salespeople isn’t the material; the salespeople are eager to learn it. The challenge is their own secret belief in the stereotype. Their business cards seldom read “sales.” When asked what they do, they give their company name, rather than their position. Their own families may think what they do is slightly disreputable. They are disrespected so often by customers and managers alike that they come to disrespect themselves.
It’s time to recognize that selling is the only job that creates more jobs. Good engineering can result in a warehouse full of stockpiled inventory. Good manufacturing can fill that warehouse faster. Nothing happens, no one benefits, until something is sold. Selling is the very lifeblood of business, and business is the heart of our economy, so why the disrespect? Does selling really mean selling out?
No dramatic moment comes when we sign a flaming contract with the Devil and carry away a big bonus check. There are daily choices, and when our choices contradict our core values, a small piece of us is chipped away.
- Your manager wants you to offer your customer a 10 percent discount to close now. You know the issue isn’t price. Your customer is completing the buying process, and a price cut now will hurt your credibility later, but you go along to get along. Chip.
- Your customer signs the order for a fast-track project. You suspect delivery will be late. You don’t say anything for now. Better not cause concern. Chip.
- Your customer makes an unreasonable demand, and everything in you is saying, “No, that’s not a good business decision for us,” but your head starts nodding and your mouth says yes. After all, the customer is always right. Chip.
We may blame the manager, customer, or industry practices for our choices, but we are the ones who teach our customers how to treat us. If we believe our customers know more and have more power than we have, then we must do what they ask of us to win, right? But you are knowledgeable, professional, and powerful, and you have the right to make good decisions for yourself and your company. We all start with confidence, knowing we are committed to taking care of our customers and putting integrity first. We feel empowered by our experience and industry knowledge. We know our value. Then, choice by choice, decision by decision, we give away that power and, along with it, our sense of confidence and value.
We are more than the products and services we represent. The ability to stand confidently in our expertise and recognize our value is crucial to building mutual respect and trust with our customers. We need to retrain them. The ability to say no when faced with unreasonable or questionable demands tells customers that we respect ourselves and will not allow them to disrespect us. Calling at the executive level because we know we have to understand the bigger goal to do our job – and we don't really need anyone’s permission to do our job – teaches the customer that we are business professionals committed to successful outcomes. Standing firm at negotiation because we know our value teaches the customer that we price it right the first time and don’t pad proposals just to give it away later.
By respecting ourselves and renewing our commitment to integrity every day, we stop the erosion at our core. And when we own that power, we can go home at night knowing we’ve done our best work for our customers and ourselves – and that we’ve done it with integrity as our guide. That’s selling with soul.