The Dying Art of Selling

Wondering where I’ve been?  

I’ve been selling.  Or at least trying.

So I started work at a marketing firm just outside of Downtown St. Louis.  I went in with a year’s worth of eager interest in promotions and advertising.  They threw me into the selling pit.  Entry-level sales.

But what I’ve been realizing is that my department is revered.  At least, within our company.

To some of the clients or prospects I reach, I am just calling off a list and they expect the worst of me.  I feel the guard go up through the phone when I tell them where I am from.  But I what I want to spit out before that guard goes up is, “Hey, no worries!  I read The Go Giver, and I have product passion, and I just want to help people.”

Because I do believe that selling was not meant to be a 5 second payment process.  My role is education, and expertise, and passion, and product knowledge, and service, and sympathy, and being your therapist when you want to let off a little steam about your frustration with the lack of responses you get from your website.  

And that is an art we should keep alive.

If you treat employees like children

If you treat your employees like bad children- untrustworthy, incapable, and undeserving- it is much more likely that they will behave like bad children. You will teach them that they only have the ability to “get by.” Your little faith and lack of trust in them is not exactly an equation for motivation.

If you treat them like good children- praiseworthy, capable, and deserving- they are more likely to behave like good children. They will work to make you happy, they will often reach their quota. And they will always strive to accomplish what is expected of them. They will feel happily entitled to their bonuses and incentives because they will have confidence in having done everything exactly the way you want.

BUT, if you are ever so bold as to treat your employees like adults? You guessed it. They are much more likely to act like adults. They are much more likely to exceed what’s expected and complete work that they are proud of.

Mature adults have integrity and know how to manage time. They take criticism constructively and promote productivity amongst their coworkers. Adults can take the initiative and make their own choices. Even good children need handholding. And while bad children might behave when you are around, when you leave, they will feel the temptation to do all of the things you restrain them from doing.

You might on occasion find a child that, when treated with responsibility and trust, will rise to the role and act like an adult. But you will not find many adults who will be treated like children and still be motivated to act like adults.

So hire adults. Train adults. Cultivate adults.
And you will get adults.

The Customer: Your Best Salesperson

Aside

A few weeks ago, a coworker was talking about Panda Express and a new shrimp entrée they’ve released.  Lo & behold, another coworker made their way to the fast-Asian Cuisine chain later that day and purchased the very plate he described.  She joked when she got back to the office that Panda Express should be paying him for bringing in business.  I think there’s more truth to that than she realized.

Word of mouth reviews- the organic and real kind- are the most powerful marketing tools your company will never have to buy.  If you are treating customers well and offering relevant and useful products, that is.

Superior service will always trump gimmicks in the long run.  Because after a while, people will see through a gimmick and hear that their friend’s so-and-so company is great at handling issues, or has a more competitive price, or offers better quality.  Tell your funny cat commercials to fix that one.  As Gary Vaynerchuk so bluntly puts it in The Thank You Economy, “people have a pretty good bullshit reader” these days.  In the transparent world of social media marketing, you can’t sell your gimmicks for very long.  You have to sell your brand, your vision, yourself.

Whether it’ patient representative, educational content, consistent & relevant emails to touch base, or whatever else it may be- those will all outrun an entertaining gimmick that in no way represents what your brand stands for.

Let your food/service/product speak for itself.  Chances are, your customers will soon be carrying your message to their friends.

Social media: Bad reviews are better than no reviews at all

Developing a social media community can definitely be an intimidating leap of faith.  Business owners, executives… they can easily be scared away when they weigh the “pros” against the “cons.”  Trust me when I say I’ve fought this fight.

When I was first setting up social media accounts for the insurance company, the same question was posed to me in different ways multiple times:  What if people comment or post negative things about our agency?

As Gary Vaynerchuk so boldly expresses in The Thank-You Economy (paraphrasing here),

Bad reviews are better than no reviews.

If people have negative things to say about your brand, they are going to say them – regardless of whether or not you provide a platform for them to do so.  It would be to your benefit that unsatisfied customers are ranting in a place that you can see it & address it.

I believe that if you are doing business ethically and transparently, you might lose business from a customer that you downright can’t make happy.  But you won’t walk away the bad guy.
Providing a place for people to give honest reviews allows you to hear what your customers like, want, & need.  And here’s the kicker: you can talk back.

“Social Media” isn’t a scary marketing tactic you, as a CEO or business owner, know nothing about.  (Hint: you’ve been doing it for years.)  It’s just communication… with technological advances that enable you to do it in a different (and much broader) way than you’ve ever done before.

Don’t be scared. Jump in!  Remember: your customers are already talking about you.

So little just does, but some things just are

I tend to think a lot in questions of What? & Why?  I have always been so curious to find out why something – anything – works the way it does.  I don’t care as much to know how it accomplishes what it does, but to know what it’s purpose is.

What I’ve learned in the years of asking myself “Why” questions is that while so little in life “just does,” so much “just is.”

C.S. Lewis is one of my examples of a brilliant mind that asks the “Why” questions.  He breaks down ideas into the most basic principles; he was a king of analytics.  But even he makes the statement

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Some things just are.  Like our strengths.  And our passions.  Some things are learned and cultivated.  Others are what we call ‘natural,’ inherent pieces of our DNA.  They just are.

And this is what I feel differentiates me from those who have come before me.  Whatever questions we naturally want to ask, sometimes we should stop asking and accept that we don’t understand.  Only then can we open our ears to counterparts in our lives, in our work, in our office to collectively find solutions and reach decisions that we can’t make when we’re just asking a “Why” question.  Or a “How” question, and so on.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: tomorrow’s CEOs were brought up in an era of innovation and quick adaptations.  And the smart ones know to use the strengths of our culture that have made it easier for us to stop talking and listen.
(Despite the noise, which in itself is another blog post entirely… Stay tuned.)

Education Advice from a College Dropout

It is not relevant to this post, nor is it important, to know why I dropped out – only that I did.

Many of my peers’ lives revolve around a GPA.  Whether it’s to maintain a scholarship or to simply make it to graduation, for many, every day of class is about getting the grade. Paying attention for those key concepts or formulas that might appear on that test.  For so many of us young adults, the majority of the first 18+ years of life that we can remember are spent in classrooms – absorbing, understanding (and/or memorizing) information.

You go through high school focused on getting into college.  You go through college focused on getting that degree.  And then you get it.

So then you’re expected to practically apply all of those textbook ideas.  And you realize it’s no longer a grade on a paper you’re working toward.  You don’t get 4 tests before you fail.  And you can’t just retake the course.  I mean yes, you get up and try again after you’ve failed, but it’s rarely as simple as re-enrolling for the next semester.  You’re working toward real goals, not grades.  This many sales.  That type of quality.  Relationships with customers; respect from competitors.

There aren’t enough people in our lives telling us that success isn’t in numbers or grades.  It’s in quality and value.

So I’ll tell you: as someone who took education for granted, learn all you can from everyone you meet.

Professors. People who have studied your field for years. People with integrity & passion for what they do.  Ask those people questions.  And listen.  Not for a grade, but to learn.

What The Go-Giver Taught Me about Passion in the Workplace

I am going to start this off by stating that every bit of this simple parable by Bob Burg will feed your mind.  Seriously, go Google the reviews, order it on Amazon, and read it first.  Then you can come back to this one thought that can’t possibly give the entire piece justice.

The idea that resonated most with me was a very simple statement that could almost be buried under the larger points of the book regarding success.  But I felt it was pertinent to the overarching theme that kept coming back to gaining success by maintaining relevancy, reliability, and integrity with your clients.  The idea was this: People work for 3 reasons- to survive, to save, and to serve.

It has stayed with me months after finishing the book because it is something that has become more and more apparent as I move my life closer toward a career.  The truth is- some people live their whole lives surviving.  They make it from paycheck to paycheck, all the while working in a miserable environment.  Others make a very comfortable living and work solely to provide that for their family, while putting money away for the future (kids’ colleges and a comfortable retirement.)  These people may sometimes believe that’s as good as it gets.

But the real jackpot is serving.  If you work to serve, you enjoy your job.  Your contribution is significant; you matter.  You have the distinct pleasure of doing what you love and feeling good about what you do.  When you are happy to do what you do everyday, you can serve your clients, your colleagues, your managers, and the vision of your company. Good luck serving a company, or industry for that matter, that you aren’t passionate about.

Find something to be passionate about, a career that will give you joy and that will allow you to pour joy into it.  And be a part of the lucky few that work to serve.

How could the innovation of entrepreneurship benefit from an attitude of service?