In my last article in this series, we took up the example of a firefighter and the fact that a firefighter is almost always a positive example of their profession. In the same way, a firefighter has a positive reputation in society.
A salesperson, on the other hand, usually does not. This negative image came about through dramatic and film presentations such as Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Glengarry Glen Ross. It was also perpetuated through some salespeople who didn’t exactly demonstrate honestly and morality, such as the notorious “used car salesman.”
In today’s transparent networked society, it’s difficult to be a dishonest salesperson. One bad sale and the word will spread very quickly. That salesperson will be out of a job and won’t have prospects who willingly deal with them. In short, there’s nowhere to hide.
This transparency also brings into play a positive factor: sales has become a real opportunity for those who have decided to become salespeople, and who indeed have honest motives. If they find meaning in sales, they will have a meaningful profession. They will be, to that degree, happy in life, too.
From the Inside Out
In general, the work we engage in 8 hours a day, day in and day out, is a constant challenge. To deal with this challenge, larger companies hire consultants to assist the company’s employees in finding meaning and purpose in what they are doing.
There is much to be said on the subject of employee purpose, and much has been written about it elsewhere. We will be taking it up in much greater detail in the next few months, but I want to briefly touch on it here as it is relevant.
In my view, the biggest mistake being made in today’s business world is trying to make a company’s purpose that of its employees. They attempt to make the company’s purpose and culture the center of the person’s life, and then the person’s family and outside activities revolve around that.
If you’ve ever been in that situation (and most of us have) and have felt kind of peculiar about it, it’s no surprise—for the center of a person’s life is the person themselves, and their own goals and dreams, not those of a company. Even if an organization is perfect, and has the most ideal working environment possible, if the person does not have the company’s purpose as their own, the company will not be able to impart it to them.
Hiring Salespeople With the Purpose
When it comes to sales, the best salespeople you can hire are those who have decided they really wish to be salespeople.
It helps a salesperson to have that purpose—for it’s no simple matter to learn to be a salesperson. Going back to our firefighter comparison, it takes at least the same amount of time for a salesperson to become a professional as it does a firefighter. Once they’re on the job, firefighters are also constantly practicing, which is something great salespeople must also do.
Losing the Meaning
When a person has decided to become a salesperson, what is the real meaning? A salesperson should look to other professions for examples. What is a doctor’s purpose? They originally had the goal of helping, and they even have an oath they take and follow.
As noted in my last article, I think that many professions in our society have drifted away from their original meanings. A judge originally had a meaning of bringing justice. So did a lawyer. A doctor was out to help people. Today people take on many of these professions either for money, status, or both. This is also true of many salespeople today.
Restoring the Meaning
At Pipeliner, we’re out to remove this negative stigma from salespeople and give them back their true meaning.
Salespeople are, in fact, tremendously important to our society. First, they strengthen the middle class, which is vital in today’s economy and which brings peace and prosperity. Second, they provide help to prospects of any product or service. People today have a tremendous amount of information to sort through in finding information about any product they’re considering buying. A salesperson boils that information down for a prospect. As an example, in the SaaS industry, there can be some 700 different products to choose from just in one category. How does one do that? With the help of an informed salesperson.
When a salesperson and a prospect have agreed on a winning situation for both of them, they have created a great foundation. This can be seen on a larger scale, where individuals, groups or governments who have agreed to trade or purchase goods from one another cannot also exist in conflict.
Not Just the Money
Like many other professions, salespeople have lost track of their original meaning. Why is this? In a large part, I blame the entertainment industry which has portrayed salespeople as downright greedy, only in it for the money.
Money is certainly not the only reason someone should be in sales. Indeed money could be an outcome—and hopefully, it is, as it does to a great degree measure the salesperson’s success. But that should not be the only motivation for someone to become a salesperson. Just like that shouldn’t be the motivation for the doctor, lawyer, or any other profession.
That is why we need to bring meaning back to the sales profession because it does have such an important place in society. The salesperson is there to help the prospect. In some respects, we could even say that a salesperson should be a servant of a prospect, in a good way.
As I said earlier, a salesperson will have a rapidly formed reputation in today’s networked society through reviews, affiliate programs, and word-of-mouth. However, they will only have an excellent reputation if a salesperson’s meaning is aligned with their actions.
What do we expect of a salesperson representing a product, service, or company? We expect these traits:
- Integrity, in what they are saying and representing
- Patience—the salesperson shouldn’t be pushy
- Loyal—to the salesperson’s brand, products, or services
- Content and satisfied in their position
- Pride-worthy—someone a company would be proud of
- Humility—who wants to deal with an arrogant salesperson?
- Teachable—able to learn
Today, a salesperson should have another quality compared to past times: a salesperson should have leadership skills. This is especially important when leading a project to implement their product or service within their prospect’s company.
We can certainly see that we don’t want the opposites of these traits in a salesperson: dishonest, lack of integrity, impatient, disloyal and knocking their own brand, not content in their job, overly proud, stubborn, lazy, jealous, greedy or arrogant.
It would be ridiculous to try and say that a salesperson should be a perfect human being. But it should be someone that people would enjoy hanging out with and talking to. It should be someone they can relate to, for when they can relate to someone, they want to be around them.
Unlike groups that are out to tear down various portions of society, salespeople build things up if they are operating within their true meaning. They bring hope and excitement into people’s lives. Just as an example, you can see how super-excited someone becomes when they buy something that has value to them. A salesperson brought that about!
A salesperson fulfilling this representation will have no problem making money. Money will flow into them.
A great salesperson creates a win-to-win situation, meaning a win both for the salesperson and the customer. I always describe a win-win, or a good deal, as something that hurts both sides just a little bit. They’re each giving in or compromising to some degree. If one side hurts too much, they will try and take revenge, so squeezing something out of the other person will greatly come back on the person doing it.
Win-win is very needed for today because frankly, we have too many win-to-lose and lose-to-win situations. These kinds of situations come about in a lack of competition, such as what we’re seeing in a platform economy*. These are basically monopolies that result in the ruin of smaller middle-class companies, and there is no longer any competition. Competition is healthy as it results in optimization of products and services, innovations and improvements, and even the company and marketing culture.
But when there is no competition, you end up with what I’ve seen firsthand in visiting an Apple store. They treat you like they treated the last person because they don’t need to be nice to you. They know you don’t have a choice—if you want their brand, you have to buy from them. This can happen with a salesperson, too, when they know they have no competition.
In the end, a salesperson must create that win-to-win to be successful for themselves, their company, their community, and their society.
*A platform economy is an economic or social activity that is enabled by and erected on a platform. Typically online frameworks of technology or sales or technology, the most prevalent platform economies are Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon and Microsoft. These are known in the investment community as the Big Five.