I’m not looking for a new job. Not even close. I love what I do, I care deeply about our customers, and I greatly enjoy the people that I work with everyday. However, from time to time I like to think about what it would be like to interview for a new position. Maybe this stems from all of the recent hiring our company has been doing, or maybe it is an indictment on how much I enjoy talking about myself to others. Either way it’s fun for me to ponder.
I like to think about interviewing for an enterprise sales position. Maybe it’s a computer hardware company, or an industrial solutions firm, who knows. All I fixate on is that it’s sales (maybe the title is “Account Executive”), and the interviewer desperately needs to uncover if I’ve got what it takes to close big (six and seven figure) deals.
“What’s the best sale you’ve ever closed, Zach?” The interviewer snarls at me.
“I thought you’d never ask,” I reply.
“Do you think they’ll let you do it?” Our excitement was uncontainable, but the realization struck both of us at nearly the same time.
“I’m not sure,” she said plainly. The look of discontent on her face spoke volumes to the magnitude of the challenge we faced.
“What if we brought it up over dinner?” I couldn’t help but suggest. “Do you think that might work?”
“Zach, I’ve only known you two weeks. There’s no way they’ll let me do it.”
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Ah, the joys of romance. Isn’t it fun falling in love? The ups, the downs, the New Years Eve cabin in the woods getaway trip that you and your two week old significant other try to plan — love, it’s the best!
She was (and of course, still is), a bit younger than me. We met exactly 12 days earlier and were now planning a “cabin in the woods” romantic getaway for New Years Eve. To suggest we were moving to fast would have been an appropriate understatement.
There was one major issue with our plan — she still lived at home with her mom. Sure, she could make independent decisions, but they absolutely had to get motherly approval. Plus, getting her father’s blessing too wouldn’t hurt.
“I’m telling you, dinner with your mom is the way to go. She needs to trust me, build rapport — a connection, something.” I pleaded to Isa.
“I think you’re right, Zach. Let’s give it a try,” she said.
To sell is human. Oh wait, that’s a Daniel Pink book… Who knew, the title holds true. Everyone sells all the time. You’ve been selling since you first started crawling and crying. We all have.
Sales isn’t about cajoling and conniving, it’s about providing value, solving problems, and being empathetic. Sales pitches aren’t about convincing others, they are about finding alignment. A sales call or meeting is simply process you go through to learn what problems your prospect has, align them with your capabilities, and then present solutions that make their life better — all the while you need to actually care about their wellbeing.
Selling doesn’t have to be hard, it has to be human.
“Julie, can I help you prepare anything before we sit down to eat?”
“Zach, that’s very sweet of you to offer, but everything is okay. Please relax and we’ll sit down together soon.”
My mom taught me at a young age to always offer to help when at a guests house. “It’s the polite thing to do,” she’d say.
I walked back outside to meet my girlfriend on the back-deck. “Well, I tried to help, I know she appreciates that,” I gestured towards the kitchen where I had come from.
Selling is a process. Although it may appear transactional at times, most sales are emotionally involved and require considerable amounts of time to “close.”
What you want and what your prospect want might not be the same. As a salesperson, your job is to identify if there is the possibility for alignment between their needs and your solutions. If their needs aren’t remotely close to what you are offering, you’re trying to make an unqualified sale. Don’t. You need alignment, also known as a qualified prospect. If there is the possibility for alignment it is your job to facilitate that.
“Julie, aren’t you excited for Isa? With University coming up and all the changes in her life. It’s pretty exciting isn’t it?”
“It is! It’s fun seeing her grow up. Every day she is more mature and poised for what comes next.”
We both turned and smiled at Isa. She chimed in, “And, Mom, one of the great things about growing up is doing new and exciting things. I know I mentioned it to you in passing, but Zach and I are planning a New Year’s Eve celebration in a cabin near Shenandoah National Park. You’d be okay with that, right?”
I stabbed a few string beans on my fork as Isa spoke.
“Will you be safe?” Julie replied.
“Yes, we both said in unison,” a big smile enveloping my face.
ABC… Always be closing. I despise sales jargon like that.
You can’t “close” someone. A professional salesperson allows someone to “close” themselves.
Sales is about finding alignment, and you’ve done your job when the person (or people) you are engaging with realize that alignment. They have a problem (pain), and you have a solution (remedy).
In my case, the pain is not immediately evident. Julie, Isa’s mom, doesn’t need a new piece of hardware or some whizzbang software to make her life easier. No, in my case, she needs to rationalize that her daughter is growing up and that she needs to find good people to surround herself with. Julie’s pain is in accepting that this is the reality of the situation. And, quite frankly, as I’ve gotten to know Julie more and more, this is much less of a “pain,” and more of an excitement for her. She derives value from knowing her daughter is surrounding herself with people that have character, passion, and integrity.
From my perspective, as I began to understand how Julie felt, I needed to figure out how I could align myself with her. How could I provide value to her?
If I genuinely care about her daughter, and she believes that, she’ll see me as a safe (or at least safer) option than having her daughter run around with hooligans. I aligned myself with Julie by showing her that I put her daughter’s best interest first. Yes, it had only been two weeks, but by going over to her house, putting my best foot forward, and being empathetic to the entire situation, I gained Julie’s trust.
To close the deal (get approval to go to the cabin), I didn’t have to do anything. Julie had already made up her mind before her daughter asked the question. Since she could tell that I actually cared about Isa, and my solution (going to the cabin) was in alignment with her needs (making sure Isa is with good people), it was a done deal.
This was the best deal I’ve ever closed. Plus, the time to close was 12 days. I could only wish that my other sales closed in 12 days!!
What does this mean for you?
If you’re in sales, or think that idea of sales is compelling, ask yourself this; Do I care about people and am I empathetic?
If the answer is yes, continue.
Do I have something worthwhile that I am selling?
If the answer is no, find something different to sell, if the answer is yes, continue.
Does the person I am engaging with have a problem that I can solve or value that I can provide?
If the answer is no, find a different prospect, if the answer is yes, be patient and let them close themselves.
Sales isn’t as intimidating as it may seem. Be human, be empathetic, and have something worthwhile to share. If you do, you might just be like me and find someone you spend the rest of your life with!