Selling with Soul: Achieving Career Success without Sacrificing Personal Integrity and Spiritual Growth
Newly revised and expanded. See what readers have to say about it:
Sharon Parker, “learned how to add “human value” to her work life, how to make it consistent with the person she is and make her career more satisfying. Selling with Soul is an excellent guidebook for anyone in business, no matter what your position or career path, who wants to do the same.” Don H. Davis, Jr., Chairman and CEO, Rockwell
“All of us sell, regardless of our job titles. Sharon Parker shows how it is possible to do it well, without sacrificing integrity. This book is a powerful guide to doing business in a way that allows us to look at ourselves in the mirror each night and to take pride in ourselves and our work” Jerry Greenfield, Co-Founder, Ben and Jerry’s Homemade
“Selling With Soul” validates what it took me over 30 years to learn; the ability to establish an emotional connection is what separates superstar sellers from those struggling to make their numbers.” Michael Bosworth, Founder of Solution Selling, CustomerCentric Selling, and StoryLeaders LLC.
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Selling with Soul – Chapter 1
Selling at its simplest is solving problems. None of us buy products. We buy a solution to a problem we can’t solve ourselves. If someone tried to sell me a green plastic tube, I’d laugh. But once it became clear that the tube could deliver water from the faucet to my rose garden, I would give him my full attention. The seller who understands the customer’s problem, who honestly educates the customer as to why his or her product or service will solve it, and who stands behind that solution with after-sale involvement, is a sales professional. In fact, if after careful consideration they believe their product or service will not solve the problem, they say so. They may even refer the customer to another supplier who can help.
Selling is described as a series of steps, from prospecting to closing, that lead to success measured in income. What gets left out of that description are the pressures put on sales people every day. We are pressured to push the product of the month even if it may not be best for the job, to promote a product even though it still has major “bugs”, to downplay or not mention problems with deliveries, to jack up the price so we can appear to give a deep discount, to create artificial “deadlines” or fire sales to goad a customer into making a decision. The atmosphere that surrounds sales takes a toll on the sales person. Tension headaches, ulcers, sleepless nights, burn out, and conflicts at home are the too common result. Sales managers who greet each sales success with “But what have you done for me lately?” add to the needless pressure. This book takes aim at the stereotypes and the toxic atmosphere that surround the sales professional. We will look at the basic steps from a broader perspective intended to help sales people find joy in what they do and balance in their lives. Instead of just offering techniques, we will look at the attitudes that transform the steps and allow us to sell with soul. Selling benefits more than the seller and the buyer. Selling creates jobs. It is a primary business driver, adding value to our economy. When sales plummet, companies cut back. When sales exceed forecasts, companies expand. Selling is the life-blood of business.
Product design can’t create jobs. It won’t take you long to think of several examples of brilliant products that failed commercially. Or products that were technically superior to their competition. TiVO for example offered state-of-the-art technology that replaced the cable box, allowed television viewers to record four channels at once, rewind live t.v., skip commercials and more, yet the cable providers continue to expand their leases of functionally-limited boxes and DVRs. In 1972 DuPont researchers invented Kevlar, a material lightweight and strong as iron, and considered it their most important new fiber since nylon. Expecting to reap the profits from a billion dollar market, they watched in disappointment for more than a decade as the market failed to grow beyond the need for bulletproof vests and sports equipment. They needed salespeople to find problems Kevlar could solve. Today, Kevlar is in the body of the Motorola Droid, cookware, audio systems, brake linings, drumheads and woodwind reeds all as a result of creative sales and marketing.
Promotion and Advertising won’t create jobs. When Apple launched the McIntosh they bought the most expensive advertising available. Their innovative ad titled “1984” showed unthinking drones following Big Brother, or “Big Blue,” but they failed to stop the rising tide of less efficient IBM clones from dominating the market. The resulting job losses at Apple extended all the way up to the founder of the company, the late Steve Jobs, who resigned in 1985 from the company he created.
Dropping your price won’t create jobs–it may even cause buyers to question a product’s value based on the “you get what you pay for” axiom. And place, how you get your product to market, is not the answer. Your successes will be quickly imitated and you will soon find yourself sharing shelf space or distributors with your competitors.
Many brilliant people have failed to appreciate the value of selling. Even a former industry icon like the late Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation and former Fortune magazine “Man of the Century”, was reputed to consider sales people unnecessary. Folklore has it he maintained throughout his reign that a really good catalogue would do more for company growth than the best sales staff. Today’s “visionaries” argue that a great website and electronic commerce will replace sales people as the best way to match goods and services with buyers. And yet, an entire industry exists just to provide training seminars and skills improvement classes to salespeople. But marketing expert Philip Kotler, in his perennially-popular textbook Marketing Management, sums it up best by pointing out that “Today’s companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to train their sales people in the art of salesmanship. Over a million copies of books, cassettes, and videotapes on selling are purchased annually.” Why? Because at the end of the day, “People buy from people.”
As sales veterans know, the tangible benefits of a career in sales include above-average income, flexibility and autonomy, and potential for rapid advancement. Salespeople rank high on annual salary surveys. In 2011 Salary.com reported average earnings of $78,218 for account sales reps, $64,900 for starting sales reps, and figures of $122,700 for Top Sales Executive. Compare that with the starting salary for most engineers of $66,124 and sales looks very profitable–especially since no formal schooling beyond a four-year degree or equivalent industry experience is required. Sales managers according to similar “what you’re worth” surveys can earn $100,000 to $165,000 depending on industry.
Salespeople often cite their relative autonomy, their ability to set their own hours, establish their own priorities, and to remain flexible in the face of family demands as benefits of their career. At a time when national surveys validate a growing desire among professionals to work fewer and more flexible hours, this fact, especially when combined with high earnings potential, would seem to make sales a highly desirable career. As a single parent, I valued being able to chaperone a field trip or attend a mid-day school program for my daughter. My schedule was mine to manage and my sales manager was only concerned with my results. But despite the benefits to the individual and to the economy, few college graduates aspire to be salespeople. Corporations lament that it is increasingly difficult to recruit and retain sales professionals. As reported on www.cnbc.com, “As companies shift their focus to growth mode, they need more people out on the front lines driving revenue growth and that means they need to boost their sales teams. A whopping 27 percent of hiring managers said they plan to hire for sales positions in 2011, according to the CareerBuilder survey.”
They are in desperate need of salespeople who, as Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, describes it, “solve problems for an elite group of clients, using a mix of financial management and communication acumen.” As 76.4M retiring baby boomers are replaced, What’sNextinYourLife.com predicts U.S. businesses will experience a ten million person shortfall in filling sales positions. Why are sales professionals in such short supply?
The main barrier may be no more complicated than lingering stereotypes about salespeople and sales jobs. Many people think salespeople need “killer instinct” with the competitive drive of a thoroughbred and the temperament of a pit bull. Sales is a war game, right? Sales managers and trainers are guilty of borrowing lingo from the military or competitive sports. The resulting slogans are adversarial, allowing for only one winner and demanding a loser. Slogans like Vince Lombardi’s “Winning isn’t everything—it’s the only thing” remain popular while ancient wisdom like “Caveat emptor” implies all salespeople should be required to wear a human version of the “Beware of Dog” sign.
Such attitudes, if they ever were helpful, are obsolete today. Selling is not adversarial. It is not war or sport. It is not all about the money, manipulation, or creating false need. In fact, the seller operating from this paradigm will fail over the long term. Whether you measure sales success by income, recognition, or job satisfaction, it can only be achieved by working with your customers for mutual benefit. That is selling. Selling with soul goes beyond that to add these elements, each of which will be discussed in following chapters. The elements of selling with soul include:
- Enjoying a balanced life
- Recognizing the importance of empathy
- Respecting yourself and your customer
- Practicing persistence and patience
- Listening to yourself and others with sensitivity and patience
- Avoiding rationalization
- Embracing change
- Being a lifelong learner
- Achieving philosophical alignment
From preparation to prospecting to the ongoing maintenance and preservation of relationships built on trust and respect, selling with soul differentiates us and allows us to feel joy in what we do.