Superstar salespeople in any industry are worth their weight in gold. They can earn their weight in gold too. So why aren’t there more of them? It’s not like there aren’t plenty of training courses around – and it’s not like the payoff isn’t there to get better, so motivation shouldn’t be an issue.
Despite what customer service and sales trainers will tell you, the biggest reason there are so relatively few true superstars in the world of selling is not due to a lack of training.
It’s due to a lack of attitude.
Unproductive, sometimes counterproductive attitudes impact all aspects of work, of course. When it comes to customer service, you see it in the pervasive hesitation to truly put the customer’s needs first. It’s an unwillingness to set aside one’s own needs and do whatever it takes to make sure that your customer believes that you genuinely care about him or her. Oh sure, many of us can talk a good game, but when push comes to shove, most of us just don’t make the effort.
In sales, however, it’s a little different. It’s an attitude problem, for sure. But we are just so conditioned to this counterproductive attitude that we don’t even see what it’s doing to us. In fact (hold on to your hats, sales trainers), a big part of the problem actually lies with sales trainers and the sales training process. We’re teaching it. I can sum it up in a word:
How many times have you heard sales training programs refer to “prospects?” Or even worse – “suspects.” How many times in your career have you made reference to “prospects” or “suspects?”
Here’s a hard-core, irrefutable fact: The best salespeople in the world have the ability to build strong, long-lasting relationships with the people they sell to. They are genuinely interested in them. They care about them, and because they care about them they earn trust, loyalty – and eventually sales. Great salespeople understand that the people they sell to are not some faceless, dehumanized ‘prospects’ or ‘suspects’ – and never were. They are people. Humans. They are your brother, your sister, your neighbour, your friend. Each with their own fascinating and unique life story, their own challenges and their own successes.
The issue with the words ‘prospect’ and ‘suspect’ is that it brings the people they refer to down to the level of an “it.” How many times have you seen sales programs talk about “prospects” as though they are just a pawn in the game of sales. Even worse, sometimes, they are sometimes talked about as the enemy. (ever heard the old closing saw, “he who speaks first loses?”) They are prey, we are hunters.
The skills that drive customer service and sales are virtually identical. They both require tactical language skills and the willingness to listen and engage people with well-thought questions. The attitudes that successfully drive service and sales and service are the same as well. You have to care about the people you encounter as the interesting and unique individuals they are.
If you think of people – as far too many salespeople do – as having little more interesting to offer than their wallet, you will lose the game of sales much more than you will win.
Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group of Companies, an international customer service training and consulting company