A friend of mine told me she hates salespeople. As part of her job, my friend has to buy large amounts of printing products. I asked her, "How do you purchase the things you need to run your operation? She said, "I don't deal with the salespeople, I just work with vendors who help me." When I asked who those were, she said, "I work with people who help me, people who represent companies I trust. They're not salesy at all."
For many people, sales is a dirty word. They picture a swarmy guy beckoning you into the alley as he opens his blazer revealing a coat full of fake watches. When I asked my friend what she means by 'Salesy" she described the professional equivalent, cheezy overly aggressive self-absorbed person constantly trying to close the deal with little or no regard for the customer involved.
I asked my friend if she had chosen any new vendors recently. She said, "Yes I started working with two new reps. Their people weren't salesy at all. They learned about my business and figured out how they could help me."
Sales is one of the few areas where people who are really bad at their jobs define the entire profession. Let's be honest, we all know there is a certain percent of bad teachers, bad police officers and bad minsters. Yet we know these are noble professions.
But when it comes to sales, the most obnoxious performers are assumed to be the norm. Fortunately good salespeople take a different approach.
In their new book, Naked Sales, authors Ashley Welch and Justin Jones describe how Sachin Rai, an account executive for Salesforce, boarded a Greyhound bus in San Francisco and took an eight-hour trip to Los Angles in order to learn everything he could about Greyhound, an account he was trying to sign.
During Rai's eight-hour learning journey he talked to everyone, from ticket takers to baggage handlers to drivers to customers. He took photos; he noticed every detail. By immersing himself in the customer experience, he gleaned valuable information about how he could help Greyhound. His thorough research landed him an audience with Greyhound's COO. Welch and Jones describe where things went from there. "The two sat down to work together to look for solutions. Eight months later, Sachin and his team were able to build this relationship across multiple channels into a $3 million global deal."
The Greyhound immersion was part of the "Sell by Design" process authors Welch and Jones use with sales teams to give them greater insights into customer motives. In Naked Sales, the authors describe how design thinking, "a creative problem-solving methodology used in pursuit of innovation," can help salespeople forge deep connections with end users, their buyers.
As someone who works with sales teams, for me, this is the essence of sales, not endlessly pitching products without forging a deep connection with anything but a client's wallet.
In a recent conversation I had with Jones and Welch, they describe their desire to help salespeople "Shed your wares, let go of your backpack of product and services and focus on the customer." Hence the title, Naked Sales.
Good salespeople know: It's not about your pitch; it's about the customer. If you meet someone who doesn't understand that basic principle, risk the urge to call them salesy. They're not. They're simply someone who is very bad at their job.
Lisa McLeod is a business consultant and author of the bestsellers Selling with Noble Purpose and Leading with Noble Purpose. Her clients include Google, Flight Centre and Roche.