May the Most Trusted Sales Person Win
I have seen unprecedented gains in the sales profession in the last ten years in back office activities such as CRM, inter-office communications, tracking of orders, lead generation, customer service, expediting of orders, and the use of social media to keep the sales department up on best practices. Yet I have seen virtually no gains and innovations in out of office activities that enhance meaningful interaction with customers to build trust, credibility and relationships. With all it's fanfare, technology has done virtually nothing to improve the one area that needs the most improvement; quality customer interaction and experience. If anything, technology has created a false sense of security that communication and trust has been enhanced, when in fact it has deteriorated and has been made more difficult.
In the world of sales, from a relationship perspective, technology makes society very insular, and it provides a buffer for customers to minimize meaningful investment in real connection and communication. You cannot create trust in sales in cyberspace. You cannot personally interconnect and influence in sales in cyberspace. Cyberspace is preferred by more customers than ever because they can have their cake and eat it also—they can get information without the hassle of interacting with a biased, self-oriented, information happy, pushy sales person.
Relationships and trust must be created in real time and off-line. In the information age we tend to over communicate superficially and under communicate in a meaningful way.The more communication is made convenient, and the more options customers have to connect, the easier it is for them to keep sales people at arm's length, and make a personal engagement a cold user interface.
Customers have dominion and control of the most important pieces of the sales puzzle and equation. Yet sales people position themselves as having all the answers. Customers have access to the most pivotal decisions and truths; timing, priority, actionability, authority, and competing initiatives and projects. Usually the truth and reality of their motives are highly protected and guarded, so you better make sure you are on firm relationship ground with customers to access it. Without the truth, selling is a huge clusterfest of half truths, misinformation and outright deception.
Most mainstream sales people relish the idea of fancying themselves as relationship sellers because it implies and hints at the idea of a closer connection, a more meaningful dialogue, a closer business relationship. Often there is a big gap between perception and reality. The reality is they are probably more like personality sellers; charming, personable, likable and friendly, but lacking any depth, insight and value.
The days of having a megawatt smile and being a social dynamo does not cut it like the good old days. I always used to look at selling as a popularity and personality contest. And I was not winning, or placing enough. When I learned the hard way that it really is a connection, understanding and trust contest, my ability to build positive business relationships changed dramically. Now my rallying call is "may the most trusted sales person win." Today personality sellers are considered by customers as style over substance and a poor use of their time.
Traditional sales people make the false assumption that they should work hard to establish personal long term relationships with all their prospects. The problem is when prospects never turn into customers, and sales people have a friend for life who never buys from them. These type of personality sellers make for great neighbors, but often are poor sales performers.
Often customers treat you and interact with you because of the way they are, more than the way you are. Do not take things too personally in sales. As they say in the mob, it is only business. Like you, your customers are human, so they are flawed, petty, frustrating, limited, ungracious at times, unreliable and unable to be other than who they are at any given moment. But, if you feel they are any worse than life can be, then you will have a long, stressful, frustrating selling career. When customers are inappropriate in their behavior it is not from arrogance or superiority, but because of fear and insecurity. So take it with a grain of salt.
We do not see others well because we rarely see ourselves accurately. The more you understand in a non-judgemental way about yourself, the more you will be able to at least relate and understand your customers with all their inconsistencies, impulses and conflicting desires. Often we are creating our own rejection and frustration. "All rejection drama is needless suffering. It turns every sales call into an audition for validation of our self-worth. The feeling of frustration and rejection in sales is always self-rejection," says Phil Glosserman.
You only need to really know yourself, know what makes you tick, and what motivates you personally to relate well to customers. Self-knowledge and self-reflection is key to establish empathy and trust. However, when your are trying to seek approval of others, it is a classic way of running away from yourself. This destructive behavior ultimately makes you hit a wall, and you start to lose a lot of energy because it is basically very exhausting and unfulfilling to all parties.