humility: a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.
There is no question that humility has to be one of the characteristics of the best sales professionals. Additionally, one of the sub-categories that are almost certainly in line with people who are humble is confidence. There are certain people that may not be confident in themselves and still be humble, but in sales I’ve found that the ones who are successful in their role often times have a nice balance of humility and confidence.
Confidence is such a big key to being successful and setting your mindset on a positive track helps you get there much quicker. When you are confident in your ability and realize that you will continue to exceed expectations then it is much easier to be humble. The reason I say this is that if you look at someone who exudes confidence then most of the time (not always) they don’t need to be told “great job” or “you’re the best” or anything like that. They act like they’ve been there before. They generally are the ones who are consistent and expect those results.
Similar to this situation, look at how the top sales professionals act when they bring in new partners. I am not saying they don’t get excited or accept the praise, I am saying that they are much more humble because they realize the hard work it took to get there and they don’t take it for granted. They don’t get a big head about it and gloat because it’s not about an “I’m better than you” mentality. It’s that they are continuing to compete against themselves and try to get better at their craft. They are confident in their abilities but humble in their approach and that balance continues to be a winning formula.
On that note, let’s make sure we don’t forget the humility needed when working with potential clients. I’ve really been speaking about internal-facing interactions but I think that being humble during client interactions might be more important, actually, they have to be.
The potential clients you are working with are fairly savvy these days. They’ve used a lot of products and services and have a good tell that almost none of them are perfect. Neither is your product. We need to look at ways of communicating with the client that exude our humbleness while articulating what we can help them with and what we can’t. If we are saying we can do everything then that’s not only dishonest but also comes off as arrogant.
We’re the #1 ____ , We’re the Top ____, We are the industry leader in ____
All of this type of fluff and the stories around it don’t make us sound like we are trying to help the client. They are self-serving and arrogant and if you’ve ever tried to buy something and heard this touted you’d know what I mean.
Let’s take the approach that “we may” be able to help the potential client as we continue to look behind the curtain and find out what they truly need. I think it’s wise to be confirming that “we can help you here” but “may not be able to exactly help there” and walk them through a potential future-state where they can envision what is the most important and what isn’t.
A piece of this is also the real possibility that you may not be a good fit and have to tell the potential client that. There is a mix of candor in that but I believe you have to truly be humble to get to this level of comfort passing up on what might be a great “logo” to work with and focus on the fact that the partnership may not be the best fit, for a number of reasons.
A lot of this continually comes back to one tried and true principle of sales.
Are you trying to help the potential client or are you trying to help yourself?
If it’s the former, you win every time, even if you don’t win the partnership.
If it’s the latter, you might win sometimes or maybe more than sometimes but in the long run, you will end up losing because your reputation will be stained and your network of people that you could have leveraged for referrals and otherwise will be shrinking.
Start with humility and try to go into each potential client call with that same air of humbleness while still maintaining your confidence and I’m sure that your calls will be much more pleasant, more trust will be formed, and you’ll have a better chance of holding your head high, win or lose.