By Kathy Maixner
Sales: You either love or hate the thought of the word. Most people fall into the “hate” category, even if they consider themselves to be professional salespeople. There is no amount of convincing, cajoling or even providing rationale that could dissuade some from the thought that sales is a sleazy profession.
What we believe we’ve often learned over time. Past experiences, anecdotal stories, peer and parental influences, all shape how we see the world. Years back salespeople were thought of as individuals who forced or manipulated others for their own gain. Unfortunately, this recollection still holds true for some. However, for most people, there comes a time in their lives that they question their belief systems and ask, “Does this belief or value still apply today – or do I need to look more closely at challenging it?”
Here’s where the concept of cognitive dissonance comes into place. Cognitive dissonance occurs when one’s internal beliefs or values are challenged with external contradictory information. Take this example: You have always believed that working hard will bring the greatest rewards. However, you now see a colleague earning an excellent living by not working hard at all. In fact, this individual appears to be making money hand over fist while on the golf course!
At this point you have two choices: You can either challenge your belief that hard work leads to monetary gain or you write off your colleague’s good fortune as an exception to the rule. What you choose to believe at this point will ultimately determine your personal outcomes moving forward.
So let’s now apply this thinking to the world of sales. If you believe that selling is at its core an unsavory profession, one better left to others without a conscience, you have reached a juncture where you have to make a choice: Either you hold to this belief or you challenge the belief. What you decide, once again, will ultimately determine your personal outcomes moving forward.
Here comes the rub: If you hold to this belief, you will forever be unaware of just how successful you could have been in sales if you challenged the belief. If, however, you abandon the belief, you risk failing by venturing out into a scary unknown. For many, it is safer to join the masses and say that cold calling and other traditional sales practices are unsavory and lead to nothing but headaches. You turn to your colleagues who also feel the same as you do to support that you are right to be thinking as you do.
Some, however, take the risk. They understand that their identities aren’t static – that they can prove themselves wrong and make huge strides in their professional and personal lives – but they have to be able to see themselves differently than they always have. They have to imagine a new person emerging right before their eyes with the inherent understanding that this new person requires attention. For some, it’s safer and easier to hold tight to the old lens.
Recently, I accompanied an Account Executive on her daily sales calls. We headed into the world of the unknown by knocking on doors and asking to speak with the individual who handles the company’s hiring decisions. Prior to our calls, I suggested to the Account Executive that we view success for the day in two distinct ways: 1) We don’t get thrown out of a building; and 2) We have fun.
How we define success is also predicated on how we’ve always thought of success. If you think of success solely in terms of dollars and cents you will be woefully disappointed. So on our jaunt into the field I thought it might be best if we redefined the concept of success and simply had a good time.
My protégée agreed to grasp the thought and off we went. Surprisingly, we spent several hours in the field and didn’t get asked once to leave the premises. Additionally, we were welcomed by several people and were even given on the spot factory tours of more than one business. At the end of the day, we had actually acquired new business and accomplished our goals of having a good time.
As we recapped our day, my protégée said: “I don’t get it; you didn’t sell anything. You just had a conversation.”
Last week I heard again from the Account Executive who described her desire to now sell as “unstoppable”. Additionally, she had received her first bonus resulting from sales in a year and a half and was actually enjoying the ride.
“Just two people talking”. You and I can look at sales however we choose. My suggestion is to first LEARN if what you have to offer, be it a service or a product, is truly what the prospective buyer needs. Forget shoving a round peg into a square hole and enjoy each connection for what it truly is: An opportunity to perfect your craft.
In the end, there’s no fear in just talking. The disappointment sets in when we meet prospective buyers for the purpose of selling and no one buys anything. Keep challenging your expectations when you meet a prospective buyer for the first time – and for goodness sake – stop calling everyone a “prospective buyer”! Let others decide if you’re a good fit and then do the same in reverse. If there’s a good fit, little more is needed. At that point, it’s okay to recall the thinking from years back:…”Press hard; there’s three copies.”
Kathy Maixner is Chief Outcome Strategist for The Maixner Group, helping companies to achieve dramatic top-line growth and bottom-line profitability. For more information on her collaborative dialogue programs and tips for revenue creation, she can be reached at (503) 722-8199 or www.themaixnergroup.com