For this episode of The Sales Evangelist, I talked with Erik Hart, a Sales Manager for an Internet company, to discuss how he is able to help his team achieve not only sales results and, perhaps more importantly, person-to-person results by learning to be human.
Often times, especially with sales, it becomes such a numbers game that the person-to-person experience is lost. The human connection is lost.
We find ourselves churning through conversations and deals with a laser focus on strategy and metrics and we lose context.
Erik, for example, had a rep on his sales team with a great understanding of how to guide his clients through the various buying stages but it became such an exercise in ‘checking the boxes’ day after day that the rep felt totally defeated, unproductive and he failed to generate revenue.
Erik asked the rep to take a step back and to really think about: What kind of story did he want to be part of? What kind of difference did he want to make?
In doing so, the rep realized not only where he wanted to go but how he could get himself there, without just running on autopilot.
Simply put: Let things be a little messy!
The sales rep had organized himself into a rut by creating a very specific process when interacting with leads and clients.
The response to a potentially lower quality lead, for example,
was three phone calls and one email while a high-value lead would have other very specific tasks tied to it.
Eventually, the tasks became more important than actually having the conversations with the clients. He found himself speaking with clients but thinking about the next task – the next box to check – instead of making a human connection.
He was reading the script instead of being present in the moment; acting like a robot instead of really digging into the needs of the client. He failed to see them as people – and they could hear that in his voice.
Taking a step back and re-evaluating his goals worked.
Overall improvement became evident in just three months; not only in sales but with increased engagement with the customers and improved morale.
The sales reps are proud of what they do again. The sales are great, but the intangibles are sometimes even better.
We all have our imperfections and personal baggage and business operations to deal with and they have the potential to become real struggles.
There is a futility to the task of trying to attach the minutia without really understanding the context.
Instead, think about what you want the conversation to be. What’s your story? Where do you want to be? What kind of world do you want to live in?
Let those answers be your guide. Let that help you reach your goals.
It can become an incredibly powerful experience. The minutia will take care of itself.
“Be Human” episode resources
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We’ll use prospect.io in the upcoming semester of TSE Hustler’s League to focus on prospecting. We’ll give you insights and tools that will help you gain new customers. In addition, we’ll provide training and strategies that you can implement today to ensure constant flow in your pipeline.
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Often when we are in a sales position or career, we tend to focus all of our attention on the product, service, and clients. All of these are good and important. In fact, if you don’t know your product or service well, you won’t provide the value that your customer needs. If you do not focus on the needs of the clients, understand their pains and wants, you may miss an opportunity to have a sale. However, one of the ways you could be missing out on a long-term relationship with a customer is by not sharing your story with them.
I don’t mean your life story from beginning to end, but rather part of your personal story with some meaningful aspect of your life. Most people choose to purchase from an individual because they trust them. Two salespeople might have equal projects, services, and prices but the one thing that wins every time is trust.
When I used to own a gym my sales team members would often tell me, “I am very trustworthy and customers like me.” Don’t be fooled, being liked is not the same thing as being trusted. Being charismatic is nice in the moment, but trust beats charm in the long run. Trust will take your sales relationships farther and grow your reputation and your reach. I want to provide you with 5 simple tips that can help you gain trust with your potential customers without being sleazy, salesy or dishonest.
Your story is about sharing who you are, your truth. It’s not just storytelling but sharing enough of who you are so that people feel like they know you. They may not ask, but they want to get a glimpse of the real you beyond your products, services or your brand.
Confidence comes from owning who you are. Being vulnerable means being okay with being silly, if that’s who you really are, being soft-spoken or even boisterous if it suits you. When you allow your true personality to shine people connect with you on a more personal level. You don’t need to be like Joe Salesman who effortlessly talks to everyone. People will sense if you are putting on an act and that’s the moment they start to judge you and decide whether or not they trust you. Vulnerability has to do with accepting your unique qualities and letting yourself shine.
Listen, Listen, Listen
Some salespeople forget that listening requires asking questions, listening to the response and then going deeper and asking “is there anything else that needs to be heard?” and listening more. Don’t assume that the first thing that customers or potential clients say is what they mean. Listen to the stress, their doubts about the problem and repeat to them, in their exact words what you heard. Once you listen you will know which part of your story will resonate with them. Their doubts fears and joys can be reflected in your truth.
Share About Your Struggles
Some people shy away from their weaknesses when speaking to potential clients, but understanding your humanity can really help to put people at ease. When I was trading in my car, the salesperson tuned in closely when he heard me speak about my transition to becoming an empty nester. With my kids being grown and out of the house, I no longer needed an SUV, which was the reason I was at the dealership. It felt like a loss to be selling the family vehicle.
While many customers would be celebrating the sale of their car, the salesman sensed my struggle and engaged with honesty. He could have said, wow I bet that is difficult, but instead he asked questions and said he was having a challenging time making sure the time he spent with his kids was quality since he separated from his wife. His honesty struck me and when he asked what was the one piece of advice I had for him about raising teenagers, I sensed a willingness to listen. This type of connection, honesty, and vulnerability builds empathy and also trust. Although it seemed to be a small gesture, I felt better about selling my SUV that day and I haven’t forgotten the salesman or his story.
Don’t Shy Away From the Truth
When you don’t have the answer to the question your prospect or potential client has don’t try to B.S. your way to the right answer. People can sniff out dishonesty. Some people try to glorify that they are a good “B.S. Artist” but the truth is they are afraid to be real, so they just lie and try to fool others. Don’t let that be you. Honest people make the most long-term customers, sales and relationships that bring in more money and opportunity, which ultimately leads to bigger returns. Be honest and let people know if you don’t have the answers to the questions they are asking. Just be diligent and get answers for them in a timely manner. They don’t need you to be perfect, just professional and committed to helping them.
Make a Personal Connection with An Authentic Story
People who are looking to buy are constantly talking themselves in and out of the transaction every minute you are selling to them. They are weighing the features with the cost, the drawbacks of the investment vs. the benefits. You can’t control this, it’s human nature. The ultimate decision will be how much they feel like you understand them and how much they know you. Tell them about a time you remember when you were making a decision like this one, where there seemed like there were too many choices or that you weren’t certain which choice to make. Don’t make the story up, be honest. Maybe it was a simple purchase, such as a first car, or a move that you made or a leap into a career.
You just need to show your understanding of the human need to struggle through a tough choice but ultimately feeling great about it. If you are truthful about the decision whether you regretted it or loved it, they will trust your empathetic view. Tell about a time when you were young or a teenager. Just give them a chance to focus on a real experience rather than bouncing in and out of which choice to make.
Ultimately, selling is about being human, about connecting to the very nature of the person on the other end. Serve them better by being authentically yourself. Be vulnerable and listen to what they have to say. Don’t worry that you don’t have all of the answers all of the time. Engage people with your honest truth and your sales will come from the relationships you cultivate much more powerfully and more often than by way of “slick” stories, tricks or other sales gimmicks. Your story and your authenticity are not to be wasted. Use your truth in connections with others and watch your business and reputation grow along with your confidence.
About the Author: Azul Terronez is a best-selling author and has helped authors turn their book idea into a reality. Azul has also coached seasoned writers like Pat Flynn, of Smart Passive Income, and others find their story and execute it well.