Over my many years of sales and sales management, I’ve noted a fairly common widespread trend. People tend to “get into sales” with a preconceived notion that it’s not an honorable job – they believe that the prime objective is “making lots of money, which is probably going to require deceptive tactics – all salespeople do it (they think), it just comes with the territory.”
The tendency even shows up in the semantics of our typical sales-speak, where conversations about “attacking” a segment (as though customers were enemies) is all too common.
I completely disagree with this long-held newbie-notion that customers “need to be manipulated to be sold”. And while some people nowadays might consider the late Zig Ziglar dated or “corny”, I feel I’m in good company to agree with his comments on the subject:
Selling is an honorable profession. Sales professionals are held to a higher standard than other professionals. Why? Because salespeople are trained in the skills of persuading and influencing. Therefore, they must hold themselves to the highest ethical standards.
Unfortunately though, we live in an age where unethical behavior has been egregiously rewarded, especially on Wall Street (and elsewhere). I suspect that leaves the wrong impression on many young professionals as they embark on their careers, but that model is becoming obsolete, and the world is changing again (though not soon enough for me).
It’s all about our VALUE SYSTEM. And while the leveraging of our debt-based fiat money system is far too complex a topic for me to go into here, it reflects upon our value systems elsewhere – in our personal lives, and in our professional lives – which brings me back to the subject at hand.
It’s easy for new salespeople to get lost in the popular notion of “deceiving customers to get them to do what you want them to do”, because they haven’t yet developed the power of persuasion yet.
Once that power is developed, if any form of conscience is their guide, they’ll be more than a little wary of abusing it. The repercussions can be life-changing.
And therein lies THE POWER OF TRUTH. There is no more powerful a tool of persuasion than the TRUTH, and part of that TRUTH is the knowledge that your company has a viable value proposition (it better had – if not, get the heck out of there as fast as you can) that makes it the right choice for certain prospects in the marketplace.
Now, NO company can do all things for all people. So the job of the sales professional is to clearly understand what differentiates his or her company, and its products or services, from those viable competitors in the marketplace, who are also striving to carve out their niche.
And then … go forth and engage those prospects that your company “owns” by virtue of its value proposition’s particular relevance to their business model. Then look them in the eye and tell them the TRUTH, with all the conviction that understanding brings.
When you encounter that prospect who is “close” to being your company’s ideal prospect, but not quite the hands down candidate that your company truly owns, can YOU yourself add the extra value that makes doing business with your company the deciding vote? if so, then tell THAT TRUTH, with the same conviction.
Why does the TRUTH work in a world where so much wealth has been created (in part) by telling lies?
Just look at the success of social media, and see how the marketing concepts of the digital era sync up and align with this same over-arching sales truism of honesty and transparency. Opening up a business’s online presence to the TRUE POWER of social media means being 100% vulnerable to the 100% transparency of an online customer relationship policy for all the world to see.
Showing how you treat customer interactions transparently, on a daily basis, is the TRUE POWER of social media, because it represents the unvarnished TRUTH about the character of your company. If your company deceives customers to make unearned sales as a standard operating policy, that customer regret is going to haunt you on social networks to the point of failure – such is the power of social. Those who fear it will avoid it, and lose the benefit as well.
But again, I mention our value system as the backbone of everything we do, and it affects social media as well.
Facebook for example has been the topic of much discussion online lately, as it’s value system projects the same skewed reward mechanisms that most Wall Street IPOs are enriched by today. It’s founders and early investors are the benefactors of a get rich quick scheme to “bait and switch” followers into paying for something that was once free – so that a few people can become immensely wealthy, disproportionately to the true valuation of the service.
That is to say that if Mark Zuckerberg was making about 300 grand a year and investors were making a decent return instead of “a killing”, we wouldn’t have our feeds throttled back to the extent that Facebook is nearly completely monetized now, with “Like Farms” springing up, and more and more people gradually using it today for the wrong reasons (self-aggrandizement, popularity contests) than the right ones (transparency and altruism).
Even the digital model of Facebook and others (give it away for free until you have so much satisfied user mass that charging for it yields a windfall profit) is being challenged by the UBER type model, leveraging user mass in a much more democratized, socially distributed way.
So there is always gravitational pull from the dark side of human nature that tempts us to take shortcuts for the easy rewards today – in sales and elsewhere – rather than making the long committment to the TRUTH, and it’s tendency to prevail.
That prevalence gradually causes people like me (and others) to become tired of Facebook’s increasingly self-serving premise, and drop off in interest and usage, until something more honest comes along.
It’s a fairly relevant analogy. The salesperson who is self-serving will likewise find their prospects becoming disinterested and “drop off in interest and usage” until someone more honest comes along.