In our last couple of articles in this series, we’ve talked about today’s vital need for the return of evangelists in business. Now, let’s have a look at what it really takes to become an evangelist.
Inherited or Learned Skill?
Are evangelistic traits only inherited? Do they only stem from a person’s genetic code? Or can they be learned—even when someone is so introverted and fearful of public speaking that they can’t even open their mouths?
To some degree, we all have traits we have inherited from our families. But sometimes “inherited traits” are just used as excuses. “Oh, my father was promiscuous, and so I am unfaithful to my spouse and can’t help it.” Or, “I had alcoholics in my family, so it just got passed onto me and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
I believe the truth falls somewhere in the middle. Inherited traits have some effect, and so does upbringing. If I grow up in a household where music is played and admired, and I learn an instrument and gain a love of it, then I probably have a gift for music that can be developed.
But I honestly believe that with enough endurance, dedication, persistence, commitment, and vision, anything can be learned. You might not become an Olympic champion or a Mozart. But how many Michael Phelps’s or Mozarts are there in the world? Could you perhaps be a very good swimmer, or composer? Or, more to the point, a salesperson or evangelist? Yes, you certainly could.
Sitting there and saying, “Well, this isn’t my gift” or “My upbringing was so bad, I could never do it” is just a cheap excuse.
One thing an evangelist is when they’re good, is convincing. But “convincing” doesn’t necessarily mean “loud.” When people think of evangelism, they sometimes think of famous religious evangelists such as Billy Graham, who were indeed loud. If you remove the religious connotation, evangelism in the world of sales could be quietly convincing on a one-to-one basis.
What does “being convinced” feel like? Maybe you can recall when you were really convinced about something. If you can, you’ll remember that you really bragged about it. Why? Because it’s human nature! An outstanding example: Just about every human being, as far as I know, as been in love at one time or another. What do we say about such people? That they’re “looking at life through rose-colored glasses.” Such people, at least while the feeling lasts, seem perpetually happy, and “tell the world” about it. That is what it’s like to be convinced about something!
What makes you convinced about a product, solution or service, enough that you would want to evangelize about it? First of all, choose a company that you can identify with, that you can align yourself with. Is it a company you can stand behind? Some companies produce high-quality goods, for example, but do so in countries with no child-labor laws, and children are made to work unbelievable hours. If you have morals, you most likely couldn’t stand behind such a company or its products. And if you’re only in it for the money, for that commission check, you won’t make it as an evangelist.
The Learning Process
Once you’ve chosen a company and products, here’s the process of learning to evangelize.
1. Everything starts with a decision. Decide evangelizing is what you’re going to do.
2. Then comes the learning stage, as it would with any skill one would try to acquire. Go out and experiment with different methods. Don’t be upset when you don’t make it right away. If you were learning tennis, you wouldn’t be able to, right off the bat, play at Flushing Meadows or Wimbledon. You have to take the time to learn.
So number 1 is the decision, and number 2 is going through a process, just like when you go to school. School takes time, too.
3. We learn by doing—to correct, to fine tune, to mature in our performance. Often we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. That’s one of the hard lessons in life.
What would be the difference, then, between a mere salesperson and an evangelist?
A salesperson specializes in one or another of different roles: the farmer or nurturer, the captain, the hunter, the harvester. An evangelist is most closely related to the hunter—the one who goes out and tracks down new potential deals. The evangelist could also be seen as the one who brings in the seeds and plants them. Other types of salespeople are doing other kinds of work to bring the “crop” to fruition.
A company that really understands the importance of the evangelist role would pay them well because the company recognizes their importance.
Hunger for Authenticity
There are those that are hoping that the marketing and PR machines we have created will substitute for the role of the evangelist. I would say that this is complete BS. We need people again! Why? Because we’re bombarded with endless information from automation sources.
Brand awareness—which is what is created by all this automation—does not necessarily equate to products or services sold. The only case where that isn’t true is when you have a product or service that is so in demand that just a little promotion will push it over the top. Otherwise, though, all the marketing automation in the world won’t relate to sold products.
Once again we come to the fact that humans cannot be replaced, and that they’re needed more than ever. From a customer standpoint, there is a hunger for authenticity, and a hunger for someone convinced and convincing about a product.
The reason for this is that we’re not computers—we have feelings, questions, wishes, and doubts. I as a human have my own timeframe, and I want to talk! Otherwise, I could just sit isolated in a room and not talk to anyone anymore.
Another reason we hunger for authenticity is that there’s so much falsity in the world. Figuratively, we see an item in the window of a shop, but what we actually get comes nowhere close. We see an ad for a gorgeous vacation spot, then go there and find it to be terrible.
The term “customer-centric” has been around for years—but it’s time we really started paying attention to it. We need evangelists to go out, break ground, and take that next vital step. Each company needs to figure this out for themselves.
We’re totally wrong if we believe that humans can be completely replaced by technology. It’s not the case, and never will be. You might have a commodity-type product that can be ordered from Amazon without human intervention, such as a gallon of milk. But there is a person that is producing and selling the milk to Amazon—and there is a relationship there, isn’t there?
Feeling the Energy
When evangelism is working, it brings an energy that can only come about through human relations. People feel it. It speaks to human beings because we’re not only heads—there is a freeway between the head and the heart. If that freeway isn’t operating well, the information doesn’t pass from the head to the heart, and the person feels disconnected. That means the salesperson is going about it halfheartedly—reciting from a catalogue or some such. But if someone is really being an evangelist, they’re touching the person, and the intention travels through.
And that is the touch we’re looking for.