As Soren Kierkegard wrote, “ Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”
When sales is successful and beneficial, age-old principles and characteristics are involved. If we go back in time, rediscover these, and bring them forward to be fully applied today, we see that they benefit not only sales and commerce but all of society.
I have always pointed out that salespeople have very similar characteristics to entrepreneurs—therefore they are, in fact, “entrepreneurs within the enterprise,” or in a word I coined, salespreneurs. In order to create stable commerce and, in fact, society, we need salespreneurs.
If you examine what salespeople are actually doing, they are creating wealth and producing peace, which we’ll illustrate in more detail as we go in this article. How do they do these things? They interact with customers, build real connections, and exhibit certain vital character traits.
Why should salespreneurs operate this way? Because they know that only when we all win together can we all thrive together in this world. When salespeople and their customers win together, salespeople earn recommendations, which are today’s currency of a networked society. Finally, if all of this is conducted with an altruistic approach, we will win even more together, as we will see further in this article.
How is Pipeliner assisting salespeople with this age-old and yet contemporary mission? Pipeliner is a CRM product without equal. In addition to being an incredibly flexible, robust and intelligent CRM sales automation tool, it has an accompanying theory for the empowerment of salespeople. Together, the tool and the theory make for a unique dynamic combination offered by no other CRM vendor. This theory includes a unique sales approach that salespeople should adopt to succeed in the long term.
Societies are generally rooted in economics, which has everything to do with sales. For that reason, salespeople have profoundly affected society since ancient times.
In the beginning, it was all about trade. Trade began with the decision to exchange something with someone else for mutual benefit. That mutual benefit came from perceived equality in the value of various goods or services to be exchanged.
When trade began, people had to agree on the value of the goods they were trading, so there would be agreement on how much of one thing something else was worth. There had to be a degree of equality for both sides—otherwise, one side or the other would feel betrayed. Both sides needed to profit.
There were, however, regulations so that people weren’t cheated. We find evidence of these all the way back in ancient literature. In the Bible’s book of Proverbs, chapter 20, verse 10, it is written that merchants were not allowed to use different weights and measures for trade. Weights and measures had to be accurate and mutually agreed upon.
Clearly, merchants weren’t the only ones who could be corrupt. A few verses later in the same book and chapter of Proverbs, a warning is issued about buyers who would loudly complain about a transaction to the merchant so that the merchant would lower the price. The buyer would leave and then boast loudly to their cohorts about how they had unfairly cheated to drive down the price.
Transactions should, in my opinion, benefit both sides, the seller and the buyer. If one side benefits considerably more than the other, there is a mismatch, and one side feels cheated.
16th-century essayist Michel de Montaigne wrote that, in trade, only one side could win while the other lost. He has been heavily criticized for this view, but his words can certainly be seen to be valid looking at the international commerce of his day. In our present world, we hear constant complaints, all across the globe, about being charged inflated prices for goods and services.
Now let’s have a look at the meaning of a salesperson.
Some professions have intrinsic meanings that are automatically associated with them. An example I’ve brought up in the past is the firefighter, who has the meaning of saving lives and property.
What does meaning do for a profession? It provides the drive and energy to the person far beyond the money earned, and has a positive connotation within society. Meaning motivates someone to learn the profession, which isn’t always easy—just ask any firefighter.
Other professions seem to have lost meaning. For example, law enforcement—some want to de-fund them and even get rid of them. Thanks to COVID, many people aren’t sure if the health industry even has a meaning. And much of journalism, a field that once had a great deal of meaning, seems to have wholly lost its search for objective truth in the quest to sell advertising.
Meaning in Sales
One of our foundational missions at Pipeliner is to return a core meaning to sales. Why? Because we feel passionately that sales has the same cultural importance as firefighters or any other equally important profession.
To start with, we let salespeople know that they’re truly creating value when they’re performing their jobs correctly, when they’re not cheating, when they’re adhering to the age-old ethics that have always been part of commerce.
As the Austrian School of Economics teaches us, salespeople create the conditions for peace, because entities engaged in trade cannot simultaneously be in conflict or at war. As Frederic Bastiat stated, “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.” I have always defined salespeople as creators of wealth and producers of peace, because of the Austrian School of Economics principle that trade has a peacekeeping component. When you view salespeople this way, their critical importance to society becomes obvious.
Beyond these lofty concepts, just taking a practical view, society is composed of consumers. The more we consume, the more we need salespeople. This is true, of course, for B2B sales, but is also true for B2C sales—as an example, go to your nearest Apple store and see how many salespeople are employed there.
We can see, therefore, that salespeople have a real meaning, well beyond that of just making a comfortable living. I want to stress this point even more because the media and popular culture has, in the last century, created a very negative view of salespeople and negative connotations about the profession itself. We therefore need to reestablish the importance of this workforce again, and underscore the critical role they can play in creating a more stable society.
Exchange and Society
Salespeople are engaged in constant and real exchange. As pointed out above, this exchange offers an alternative to the violence we see all around us. The economists of the Austrian School of Economics have always emphasized the great importance of exchange for a society.
One particular principle put forth in the Austrian School is the law of comparative advantage. It states that exchange can benefit all involved, even when some parties are superior to everyone else. For that reason, the law of comparative advantage is also called the law of socialization. This is not to be confused with nationalization—rather it is peaceful coexistence of people who are strangers to each other. Don’t we need this more than ever today, not just for each other, but for each nation and culture?
Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek went so far as to propose a new word for economics: Catallactics. The word was originally coined by English economist Richard Whately, and is based on a beautiful Greek word katallattein, which means both “to exchange” and “to turn from enemy to friend.” This quality is something we observed in the 2022 World Cup being held in Qatar. Competitors from all over the world were housed right next to each other and celebrated a friendly rivalry together. It is clear that people innately want to be friends and not enemies, and certainly not in conflict.
Meaning and Character Traits
Because a salesperson operates in a networked society, the meaning a salesperson possesses is more important than many other professions that are more “behind the scenes.” Although, when we go to a hospital, for example, do we not expect staff to behave according to their professional standards? We expect doctors and nurses to treat us with empathy and compassion.
What is the expectation when engaged with a salesperson? That we find a deal in which both sides win. This concept has become twisted over the years, so we are bringing it back. This meaning for salespeople, in many ways, boils down to character traits such as integrity and truth, so that a prospect knows the salesperson is not trying to take advantage of them. Another trait is patience, not letting your anxiety to close the deal cause you to lose your temper and blow it. Loyalty and honesty are other aspects, so a prospect knows they can trust the salesperson. Deals were long ago made simply by a handshake—and that same quality of trust must still exist.
In any business where people are dealing with other people, especially sales, the full list of traits they need to possess are:
- Faithfulness—which means that salespeople are eternally faithful to the product they’re selling, and to the profession of sales.
- Generosity—the salesperson needs to be generous with the time they invest in order to get something out of a deal.
- Honesty—the salesperson should be honest in their approach, not selling something that, when the customer arrives home, they find is defective.
- Integrity—the salesperson should keep their word, and not unexpectedly alter any aspects of the sale.
- Loyalty—the salesperson is loyal to the deal, but also loyal to the company.
- Leadership—the salesperson shows leadership in moving the deal forward.
- Patience—the salesperson is patient and not “pushing” the customer to close.
- Peacefulness—the salesperson doesn’t try to force any issue.
- Self-control—the salesperson isn’t falling apart when there are issues with the deal, or when the customer tries to talk down the price.
- Teachable—the salesperson is capable of learning all about their products, their market and their customers.
These traits not only provide meaning to the profession itself, but they also define who you are as an individual. On a broader level, bringing these traits to the table or returning to them makes for a more stable society.
Bringing Old Principles to Present Day
Some factors exist in today’s commerce the same way they did thousands of years ago. For example, today we see that the buyer and the seller are somewhat in competition, each striving for a win..
One significant factor that has changed, though, is communication speed. In ancient times, news traveled by word-of-mouth, making its way on camel or horseback, and no one had any idea of what was happening even 500 miles away. Today, however, news is instant, traveling the entire globe in milliseconds.
We truly live in a networked society, and as a result, a salesperson’s reputation precedes them. It is, therefore, even more important than ever that sales traits and principles that have been with us since ancient times be applied today. Today’s sales currency consists of recommendations, and these happen by word-of-mouth. Given the plethora of review sites, networking sites, community sites, word-of-mouth can scale like never before.
It also often happens that, in life, you meet the same person twice. “Meeting” in today’s networked world can happen instantaneously, and given our interconnection, the chances of meeting that person again are greatly increased. You should therefore strive to make a great impression, every time.
Given that today buyers have access to an unprecedented amount of information—not just about the seller’s product and company but competitor products, too—this means that the seller has to work even harder to create value at every stage of the buying process to differentiate themselves. Again, this requires building rapport and trust.
The great aspect of these traits is that they are inherent in everyone—we just have to activate them. Each of us has the innate capacity to utilize that entire list of qualities above. And from these qualities comes meaning.
They don’t require sales training or sales techniques. In fact, many sales techniques lead to turning salespeople into robots, like AI. An increasing amount of technology is attempting to “automate” a salesperson. Every call is monitored, and wording is corrected. This trend leads to a total loss of authenticity, which prospects and customers don’t like.
No, we need to go back to being real humans. True and effective sales are built on relationships—the bridge from one person to the other.
Utilizing these inherent traits simply requires the decision to use them. It is up to the individual to decide to become the person who displays such traits.
At Pipeliner, we take the unique approach of combining a state-of-the-art CRM system with deep and relevant theory. This means a salesperson is both armed with a fantastic toolset and substantial wisdom to apply it.
Why do we do this? Because, as we said above, salespeople have a direct impact on society and positively contribute to it, just as firefighters, medical professionals, legal professionals, and many more do.
But compared to some of the others, the entire sales profession is geared toward “winning together.” Why should we win together? Because in a sales environment, all actions are, in the end, carried out for the well-being of others—and sometimes at risk to salespeople themselves without expecting anything in return. This is a truly altruistic approach.
When all is said and done, the above approach is the culmination of sales. This is because we know that in contributing to the well-being of others, in the end, we help ourselves too.
To Sum Up – The New Sales Funnel
Salespeople are “entrepreneurs in the enterprise”—or, as we say, salespreneurs.
Salespeople produce wealth and, as a byproduct, peace.
Salespeople accomplish these missions through demonstration of their character traits, as outlined above. The salesperson makes the firm decision to be someone who lives these qualities.
In a networked society, everything is about reputation. What is your name? Who are you? This is why we distrust politicians; they are not truthful, and we hate it.
The currency of reputation is recommendations.
All of these factors, at the end of the day, funnel down into winning together. Why? Because the price of the well-being of others is that sometimes we take the risk of providing something without expecting anything in return. Our contribution to the well-being of others is also a contribution to our own well-being, because it is rooted in altruism.