Last week’s article about “Managing Your (Sales) Reputation” generated some great feedback and suggestions for future posts. The collective feedback really focused into two areas: “Business Credibility” and “Personal Credibility.” Both areas of credibility are obviously linked to each other, but it will clearer to address each area separately. Some of my comments may seem to be “no-brainers” and common sense but I want to address them because, unfortunately, some of these “credibility-killers” are still being practiced by salespeople. If, collectively, we can improve the behavior of the offending salespeople, then we will improve and increase the perception of people with careers in sales.
One description that I hear from customers repeatedly about salespeople is that they are “too salesy.” At first glance, a sales manager might perceive that to be a compliment about one of the people on their team. But, obviously, these customers are not using the term in a positive fashion.
Salespeople have to be like acrobats in that it is a balancing act between “selling”, which is the job, and not being “too salesy.” The best salespeople I know are masters at walking this fine line. I think a big part of the customer description of “too salesy” is the context of when, and where, the salesperson is actually “selling.” The best place to do your selling is in a business meeting with your customer. Everyone understands the reason for the meeting and all the attendees have aligned expectations. In the meeting invitation, the salesperson should clearly state the reason for the meeting and what the benefits are for the customer to agree to the meeting. There should be no awkward surprises in a customer meeting because the best salespeople have already managed customer expectations.
Where salespeople get into trouble is being to “salesy” at inappropriate times and in inappropriate situations. For example, I’ve actually seen salespeople corner a customer at an industry social event and use their tablet to walk through a deck at the bar. Do you think that salesperson could be characterized as “too salesy?”
As far as client entertaining goes, my policy is to not bring up work-related talk until the customer brings it up…which they invariably do. When in a golf course, sporting event, or a concert, the purpose is to get to know your customer and establish a relationship. The customers know, though, that the correct thing to do is to bring up some business talk with the salesperson…that’s part of the deal.
This is a challenging topic as there are some behaviors, which to me, are ‘no-brainers’ and common sense but apparently are still happening according to my customer friends. Here’s a direct quote from a friend of mine:
“…could you address “personality issues” that a salesperson cannot or will not accept that also impacts their reputation? (And because they don’t accept it, they refuse to change it?) I’ve seen a range as minor as “close talkers”, and bad breath (in person), or being formulaic, disrespectful, sexist, racist or bullying (both online and in person). Or refusing to be a team player.”
Well, obviously there are still salespeople out there that haven’t yet realized it is 2018. Clearly, anyone who is in any way sexist, racist or a bully, needs to change their behavior and really closely examine their own lack of personal values. There is no excuse or rationale for those behaviors, period. The “close talker” issue is one that I’ve heard occasionally encountered myself. I think that many people, myself included, like to have a little personal space and not be crowded by someone…and certainly not a salesperson. If, as a salesperson, you notice that people keep backing away from you then you’re clearly too close to them and need to allow for their personal space comfort. We’ve talked before about how important it is for salespeople to be team players and to put their teammates first…if you want a successful sales or sales management career, then you need to think of others before yourself.
One other point about internal credibility and reputation I’d like to address is the “tall poppy syndrome” …courtesy of my friend, Tony Uphoff. The definition is: “The tall poppy syndrome describes aspects of a culture where people of high status are resented, attacked, cut down or criticized because they have been classified as superior to their peers.” Tony correctly stated that career management is a delicate balance of standing out and fitting in. I believe that those most successful in dealing with “tall poppy” are those who are humble about their success and recognize that whatever success they’ve achieved has been the result of the help of many people, not just themselves. To use a sports analogy, the wide receiver that just scored the touchdown casually flips the ball to the referee rather than dancing all around the end zone. Successful salespeople behave like they expected to make the big sale and that they’ve done it before. “Tall poppy” issues can be reduced not by changing others’ behavior but by changing one’s own behavior.
Business and personal credibility are interrelated and often interchangeable. They complement each other and I believe you can’t have one without the other and be truly successful.