To be successful, salespeople need a healthy dose of both ego and empathy. Ego to pick yourself up after the inevitable falls and move onto the next opportunity believing in yourself. Empathy to take a walk in your clients shoes and understand what real value means to them and how it can be delivered. These traits, possibly contradictory and ego being offensive to some peoples minds, are generally accepted as being essential human tendencies in those carving a successful career in sales.
But what about our own human frailties, the one’s defined in ancient Christianity as the 7 Deadly Sins. Dating back at least 1500 years, these sins were those transgressions against the Church which were seen as fatal to one’s spiritual progress.
In this post I’ll explore the 7 Deadly Sins of Sales, the actions and errors that are a result of our own inclinations and can derail the best sales process and the bring the even experienced salespeople undone.
You’ve just won that big deal you’ve been working on all year. You’ve got a ‘golden egg’ client who you can rely on to meet or exceed target. You believe you have a USP so unique you will not come under significant pressure on your bid. Such situations have led to the downfall of many a salesperson, and for that matter businesses. Slothful salespeople take things for granted. Resting on your laurels will see you failing to do the things you should be doing; failing to continue developing and and failing to keep up with the latest in your market, your industry and sales techniques. You will not be using and challenging your skills and talents leading to physical and mental laziness. This leaves the door open for competitors and missed opportunities. And regardless of your level of success, you must continue to develop your skills, build your internal and external networks and deliver superior support to your customers.
Successful salespeople take pride in their profession, their personal abilities, their appearance, their company and their clients. But not checked, this pride that can be such a strong attribute can turn into arrogance that costs dearly. Those with an over-inflated sense of their own ability and their own worth often consider themselves above rest and this can be costly to both the individual and the team. Sales is a team effort and like in any team sport, while there will be superstars, there are always those on the team helping that superstar shine. like in soccer, the guy who puts the ball in the net is seen as the hero, but there was a team that helped get the ball in the right place at the right time. So it is in sales and successful salespeople know and acknowledge this. There is no shame in being proud of your achievements, but never be too proud to recognise those who helped you achieve that success and make sure you play by the sames rules as the rest of your team.
Salespeople by nature are competitive beasts. You believe you are better than the ‘next guy’ and are looking to prove it. But then a sale is lost to that guy you know not as skilled as you – you ask “Why?” A sales drops into the lap of ‘Mr Lucky’ and you ask “Why?” You can get ‘lucky’’ in sales, but it usually comes as the result of hard work and a well devised plan coming together. Being envious of the ‘lucky’ guy serves no purpose in sales. The only way to develop sales opportunities is to work at it. For some this will mean working harder, for others smarter – but just work at ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ might be for you. And don’t let envy of your competitors strengths defocus you from the task at hand. Develop sales strategies that deliver the value your prospects are looking for and implement a plan of action to achieve this.
I am not talking office romance here, although that can really take you off track and has derailed many a promising career. No, success by its very nature can be intoxicating and seductive. You are riding the crest of the wave. you are enjoying success, recognised by your peers and management, perhaps across the industry and even the broader market. you are invited to write guest posts and speak as a subject matter expert at prominent industry events. You are enjoying, lusting for the trappings of you success. Enjoy the ride. It won’t last. Well at least not in the same format as you are enjoying now. Times change, markets change, economies fail – think about what cloud computing has done to high-end software sales guys of the 80’s and 90’s, the impact of the GFC. But as a successful salesperson you have planned for the worst and hoped for the best. You have conducted risk assessments of your company’s position, your markets and you key accounts and have contingency plans in place for when the good times roll by. And most importantly, don’t let the good times change you. Don’t lose focus and don’t forget what you did to be successful.
This misplaced desire to consume more than you require and withhold from the needy will surely have a negative impact on your sales success. In times past, from a business and sales perspective, it was seen as powerful to own and control knowledge. To selfishly withhold this knowledge from others to strut it out to demonstrate your superiority. How times have changed. Today, he who shares their knowledge has the power – the power of being seen as an expert in your field, the power that comes from your profile being raised and acknowledged by peers and clients. With this power you will build trust, your personal profile and sales.
The salesperson who has the desire to ‘own it all’ often does so at the expense of those around them. Having been successful in your career you are enjoying the trappings of that success, but you want more. Not just the monetary rewards but the recognition as well. You fear losing the ‘wealth’ of recognition or worse having to share the material rewards with those who helped you achieve your success. You fail to offer the same prices and service to loyal clients that you use to entice new business. Don’t lose sight of what you did and how you worked to achieve your success. With each step you gained more rewards, in whatever form they might be. It’s no longer 1987, Gordon Gekko was fictional – greed is not good. In fact the word ‘sell’ is derived from an old english word ‘Sellan’ which means ‘to give’. Gluttony and greed are in direct contrast to giving – and that is what good sales is all about
Just lost a sale? Been misquoted by a competitor? Had a customer making irrational claims? Controlling your temper in these times is often hard. But anger talks your focus away from the task at hand- getting back out there to win more business. Anger will ultimately have a negative impact on your sales results and your career. Remember, as Senator Robert F Kennedy once said, “Don’t get mad, get even”.
So there you have my 7 Deadly Sins of Sales. I have been in sales too long to be a saint. I can’t lay claim to being sin-free. We all commit some of these sins some of the time. What is important is how you react when you recognise you are a sinner.
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