Even highly experienced and successful salespeople can have a blind spot. So intent on what they want to accomplish, it’s easy to ignore how others view them. And it isn’t always complimentary. “Oh, don’t take Sally seriously. Just remember that she’s in sales.” This is one reason why year-after-year salespeople find themselves on the bottom rung of the public’s trust ladder.
Going into sales can be like having three strikes hanging over your head everyday: instant distrust, not being taken seriously, and getting more rejections than you deserve. What’s amazing is that so many stay in the field even when few gain significant success.
To cope with these negatives, salespeople have another “other job” and that’s marketing themselves more effectively. Here’s how to go about it:
1. Define yourself. Cultivating how others perceive them should be the #1 priority for sales professionals. With everything instantaneous, including the way others see them, there are no second chances. No one takes time to figure them out or has time to make an effort to get an accurate picture of what they’re all about.
The salesperson’s “other job” starts with identifying those characteristics customers value and respond to positively, as well as those that bothers them and cause them to look for someone else.
When salespeople ignore defining themselves, others will do it for them — and chances are the results will not be what they want.
2. Share what you know. Having the right selling skills is basic, but salespeople often ignore the critical role knowledge plays in attracting customers and closing sales. Today’s customers look for evidence that a salespeople possesses the level of expertise they expect from those they work with.
One of the most effective ways to demonstrate competence in a digital world is blogging. Whether it’s making your ideas, experience and knowledge available by email, on your website, in industry publications or posting on LinkedIn, sharing what you know is an excellent way to connect with prospects and to let customers know why it’s in their best interest to work with you.
3. Being on time. It may seem like a minor, relatively unimportant, or overly compulsive issue, but being on time is a performance benchmark. Having a reputation for being late sticks; it doesn’t go away. “Don’t give that assignment to him,” the manager said. “He never meets deadlines.”
Anyone in sales who wants to show customers that they are dependable, reliable, and can be counted on, being on time sends the message, a characteristic that has immense value in business.
4. Not talking about yourself. Some salespeople just can’t resist trying to impress prospects and customers by interjecting themselves (and often their customers) into the conversation. It’s easy to forget that those we speak with are interested in overcoming their problems, having their needs met, and pursuing their opportunities, not listening to a salesperson “stories”.
It’s your solutions, not your “war stories” that get your customers’ attention. When you give them what they need, they’ll be quick to tell others what you have done for them.
5. Develop a give-and-take style. What today’s customers are looking for in a salesperson is dialogue, not a sales pitch. They want someone who takes time to interact with them, answering questions, and, most of all, being patient. Customers want to make the best possible decisions, not live with regrets.
What this takes is a “give-and-take” style that focuses on what customers are thinking about and wrestling with mentally. It isn’t just a matter of having the right information; it’s more about having an understanding of what’s involved in making a purchase, whether it’s a large item like a car, an intangible such as insurance, or something as seemingly ordinary as a pair of jeans.
6. Take ownership of communication. Here are two examples of salespeople who do it right. The first is the only auto salesperson I remember clearly. He made sure I didn’t forget him by sending along a homey email newsletter that was a fun read.
The other one is a life insurance agent who knows the value of communicating with his clients. In one email he said, “Congratulations for your dutiful attention in making the yearly premium payments, which are guaranteed to continue at the same rate….” It went on to point out how the policy accumulates cash values during the owner’s lifetime. It was a welcome reminder of why buying the policy was a prudent decision that deserved careful attention.
Both salespeople took ownership of their communication. Neither expected someone else to do it for them. Both recognized that the customers are theirs, and communicating with them is a key to their continued success.
7. Do the best thing. Eric Zelermyer, a senior iOS developer at Resy Network in New York, points out in his “Why You Are Not Steve Jobs” article what made Jobs an icon. It was a “relentless devotion to minute improvements in product design [that] engendered, over time, the emotional attachment of many millions of so-called ‘fanboys’.”
Apple under Steve Jobs “consistently placed the improvement of their products over easy temptations of short-term profit,” says Zelermyer. More than once, he pushed the company to the brink of bankruptcy rather than compromise this principle. For Steve Jobs the focus was never on the product as such; it was always on the user experience. He went far beyond simply doing the right thing. It was all about doing the best thing.
It’s the same for salespeople and it results in what Apple has proven to be the Holy Grail of sales: not just fanboys, but customers for life.
All of which suggests that salespeople would do well to recognize what customers are looking for today. Transparency and authenticity is what “clicks” with them. Building that sense of trust is the salesperson’s “other job”.
John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales consultant and business writer. He publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-774-9759 or johnrgraham.com.