Contrary to common perception, sales is NOT about doing or saying whatever you can think of to sell a product. As a salesperson, you are an influencer and persuader who is an expert at convincing people to take action that is in their best interest. You are in the business of changing clients’ minds, but before you can do this, you must first change your own mind.
Why the Bad Rap?
Why do people instantly have a negative perception of sales, or use terms like shark, dodgy, sleazy, cheap car salesperson, liar, etc.? If you don’t believe this perception exists, ask your acquaintances what they think about salespeople. You are likely to hear the stereotypes about how people in sales have the ‘gift of the gab,’ are sneaky, manipulative, pushy, and just looking to make their quotas.
The fact is, everybody is a salesperson. Humans are always negotiating, pitching ideas, influencing, and changing people’s perceptions to convince them to buy into our ideas. From getting a raise or promotion at work, to landing a first date, or even getting your children to eat their vegetables, all of these desired outcomes spring from our need to sell. Kids sell every day, trying to influence their parents to buy them the latest toy or let them stay out late. Couples sell their ideas and selves to each other. Even in the workplace, beyond the interactions you have with clients, you’re engaged in a constant dance of sales with your employer – selling your capabilities, while your employer sells the attractiveness of the company.
So again, I ask, why the bad rap?
We’re all weary of salespeople precisely because we know that their main purpose is to influence. To influence means to change somebody’s mind. However, our brains are hardwired to avoid anything that will take us out of our comfort zone, which is why we perceive salespeople as such a threat. They’re trying to change our way of thinking so the limbic part of our brain, by default and often subconsciously, fights back in an effort to protect us from a change it wasn’t expecting.
Sales is a highly emotional calling. It is a demanding, high-stress, high-pressure, and anxiety-triggering job. Sales professionals must persist through rejections and are required to pick themselves up with a smile on their face – day after day! Moreover, without sales, an organization cannot prosper.
Yet where is the respect for salespeople? Does anyone ever say, ‘When I grow up, I will get into sales?’ Unless your parents have been successful in sales, it is rare to meet someone who knew they always wanted to be in sales. The majority just fell it.
Sales is much more complex than number crunching, reading scripts, or having coffee with clients. For too long, we’ve seen sales as something external to us. As salespeople, we spend enormous amounts of time honing our skills and figuring out how to close effectively so we get more ‘yeses’ from clients. This is what we think will make us good salespeople. And to some extent, it is. But in only focusing on the external work, we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to reach our real potential. You can see this in top athletes, performers, and artists. They don’t just ace their external game. They also become masters of the complex inner game that truly underpins their performance.
Before you can influence, persuade, or change someone else’s mind, you must first reflect on yourself. You must find value in yourself as a talented individual who has something to offer to the world. You must trust your innate intelligence, that little voice inside you, to guide you. Too often, we silence the little voice inside because we’re too focused on day-to-day mental chatter. It is when we take time for reflection that we finally hear this voice and begin to respect ourselves.
Your Mindset and Your Magnitude Magnificence
To change another person’s mind to a new way of thinking, you must first overcome your own perceptions of what a salesperson is. Here are some common mistakes sales people make about themselves that undermine their chance to be the Respected Salesperson.
Mistake #1 – Self-Worth Issues. So many in sales don’t value themselves as they should. They allow their power to be taken from them, essentially treating themselves as subservient to their clients rather than as being on equal footing.
For example, let’s say that you’ve booked a 30-minute meeting with a prospect. You arrive and that prospect keeps you waiting. Finally, they enter the room and tell you that you’ve got 5 minutes to make your pitch to them. This is the sort of incident that salespeople have to deal with regularly and it shows a complete lack of respect for your time and your value as a potential partner to this prospect’s business. Allowing prospects to treat you like this is an example of the subservience that many salespeople fall into. We end up valuing ourselves, and our times, far less than we value our prospects. The result is that our prospects don’t respect us because they feel they have all of the power in the relationship.
Mistake #2 – Self-Doubt. This mistake occurs when we don’t trust our hearts, the unconscious parts of our minds, and our plain gut instincts. A good example is when we have clients that we know, in our hearts, are unlikely to say yes to what we’re offering. But we fool ourselves into believing they’re authentic because they’re polite about it. You end up dancing around the point together, with neither one of you really wanting to end the sales relationship. As a result, you show a lack of respect for your own judgement, intuition, sense of clarity and discernment and, most of all, time, because you waste it on somebody who will never buy in the first place.
Mistake #3 – Self-Judgement. As salespeople, we need to have a healthy sense of self-criticism. We need to keep looking for ways to improve and to fill our skill gaps. But when this healthy self-criticism veers over into beating ourselves up for the tiniest of mistakes, we begin to damage our respect for ourselves. And, by extension, the respect that others have for us.
Mistake #4 – Self-Absorption. We become self-absorbed when we forget that sales is not about our targets or about advancing within the companies we work for. It’s about both the client’s needs and the company’s objectives. Selfish acts create undue pressure where none need exist. As salespeople, we should be mindful that it’s how we represent both our clients and our companies that ultimately leads to the impression that people have of us.
Mistake #5 – Self-Sufficiency vs. Teamwork. You are not an island when you work in sales.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with working on yourself and your skills. However, when you work to advance yourself at the cost of working within a team environment, you hold yourself back from receiving other opportunities. The relationships you form with your peers, co-workers, and clients all play huge roles in how you’re perceived as a professional. Respected Salespeople understand that they must collaborate with their sales support and leadership teams to become the best they can be within the structure of their teams.
Taking the Next Step
The key message in all this is that the myths that surround sales do not define us as individuals. But buying into those myths leads to a skewed perception of ourselves, which then fuels the perceptions that others form of us. To become the Respected Salesperson we are entitled to be, we must understand what makes us who we are and develop a healthy sense of respect for the strengths we bring to the table.
Written by Arishma Singh.
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