Every salesperson has experienced the fallout from working in a profession with a bad reputation. Regardless of whether they sell cars, insurance, or cute, cuddly puppies, people seem to turn their nose with just the thought of talking to a salesperson. I found myself in a situation that showed me exactly why salespeople are given such a bad name right after the death of my grandfather. During my grandfather’s wake, a conversation with a commercial real estate agent took a sharp turn towards a crude plug for his business. Among mourning friends and family, and no more than ten feet from my grandfather’s casket, the agent reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a business card. Smiling, he said, “I would love to talk to you about a few commercial properties I have listed. Give me a call.” The socially reprehensible gesture smacked me coldly in the face. I couldn’t stop staring at the card, wondering how I had found myself in this completely inappropriate sales moment. Was he really trying to sell me commercial real estate at my own grandfather’s wake? Yes, yes he was. The sting of the situation lasted for several days. As I replayed the scenario in my mind, I suddenly understood why salespeople in every profession have such a bad reputation.
Salespeople who see others as dollar signs and sales, instead of real human beings, ruin the reputation of honest, good-hearted salespeople. Sadly, it’s only a small fraction of those in the profession who make us all look bad. The moment I realized this, I made a promise to take the moral highroad in my sales career, and I drafted my personal sales philosophy. While the sales profession as a whole may have a bad reputation, I realized I could take control of my own actions to build the solid personal reputation of a great salesman. My philosophy has two simple rules for treating my customer the best I can: provide value first and make a friend at all costs.
Too many salespeople forget what’s like to be one of our own customers. When you see yourself through the eyes of your customer, you quickly realize the need to always provide value first. Otherwise, your motives may seem completely one-sided and selfish. With the definition of value changing from industry to industry, how do you know what is valuable? Simple. Providing value means giving your customers something they will appreciate; something they will actually thank you for. It means giving them something selflessly, without the guarantee of something in return. Whether you are cold calling, networking, or working the phones, take a look at your contact with prospective customers. Are they thanking you for what you are offering them? If not, you need to change your methods. Providing your customer with value on your first encounter shows them your true intentions to do what is best for them. This is what helps earn their trust and respect for you. This first step is the easiest way to build rapport with your customer, and to build the foundation for my next rule, to make a friend at all costs. Your customers do business with people that they like and trust as friends. Therefore, every conversation you have and action you take should advance your friendship with your prospective customer.
Focusing your efforts on making friends will liberate you from the mechanical sales tricks and stiff verbiage you have learned over the years. Boil things down to their core, and find simple ways to build real and meaningful relationships with customers. Using these two rules helps you create a sales method that is simple and unique. When you know your customer personally, you can shape your method to their specific needs. When your customer knows you personally, you can dispel the bad reputation of salespeople, and make a great name for yourself.