Are we willing to call ourselves out first before blaming someone or something?
It’s always easier to blame others, and sometimes they are at fault, but what have we done to cause the situation? How have we contributed?
And, more valuable to consider, is this even worth getting upset over?
Most things that happen are so insignificant that the best option becomes not saying anything at all. We can tap down the ego with a dose of humility.
Have we ever made a mistake before?
Have we dropped the food right before serving it?
Have we cut someone off in traffic?
Have we held up a checkout line with a lot of items?
Have we parked poorly between the lines?
Have we messed up an order?
Have we had one of the days where we just struggled?
So do other people.
Before causing a scene or yelling at someone or getting angry we need to be willing to look at that “mirror” and tell ourselves that we are in control.
Our actions, right now, define us.
These are the traits we want others to exude when we mess up or are having a bad day.
We need to take that into consideration next time we are in that situation.
Even the most accomplished athletes in the world stumble, drop passes, hit an errant tee shot, and look foolish from time to time.
We can’t expect to always “be on”.
It’s normally when our ego gets the best of us that the humble train rolls into the station.
Sure, we have moments of greatness but they shouldn’t be thought of as a given. We have to work and practice to keep our skills sharp and not get too cocky that we reached some pinnacle and are up there for good.
That’s never the case.
We have to be focused on continuing to do the little things. The blocking and tackling. The accessory work. The fundamentals. That keeps us fresh and in the “maintenance mode” to pull it out whenever we need it.
We can’t take a play off. We have to be on call and give each opportunity our best effort otherwise we’ll strike out badly. And not because we just failed with a great attempt but because we took our eye off the ball thinking we are already going to score.
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.
You don’t need me to tell you this but this is a TON of information out there on the sales profession and a million different opinions on what you should do and how you should do it. From prospecting new clients to navigating the sales cycle, to follow-ups and referrals, it’s borderline exhausting. It’s a big topic, I get it. But it can also be confusing for a lot of the new people that are trying to sell products whether you are “carrying your own bag” for an organization, are running your own business, or are pitching investors and gaining proof-of-concept in a start-up. I think there is an easier way.
I want to strip that all away for a moment and focus on the key characteristics that I feel are essential across the board for any sales professional to succeed. I’ve seen it first hand and it’s not complicated. It’s just logical and takes time to refine and sharpen. However, if you put the time into each and every one of these I am confident that you’ll be able to reach new heights in your career and start to understand the relationship element that is so vital in any partnership.
We are in a new era of sales with much more information out there for the buyer, and frankly, a much savvier buyer which I love. The reason I love it is because human interaction and relationships matter again. Honesty matters. Integrity matters. Respect matters.
I don’t think these things ever went away but a lot of software products were ahead of their time before the client could actually form an opinion and do thorough due diligence. Now, with much more information at their fingertips and the curve from innovators moving to the early and late majority there is more of a level playing field and buyers are back in control.
Times are changing and I feel this new age of sales is going to weed out a lot of those sales professionals that stick with the old way of doing it and fail to make the shift. You are going to have to have true empathy, you are going to actually put the client first, you are going to be professional and brutally honest in your responses when you can do something and when you can’t.
I think the hardest part about sales is all of the BS and bad habits people have learned for years that they try to wedge, fit, or shimmy into an already broken process. They drive to regurgitate what they learned in a book 10 years ago. It doesn’t work that way anymore. People are too smart. That all changes today.
I don’t have all the answers, far from it, but what I do feel I have uncovered is a clear path that new and old sales professionals alike can be cognizant of and continue to build on as they develop their “in-game’ skills. These are not tricks and tactics but the characteristics that will be paramount to future success. None of these should be a surprise but I hope they make you think a bit more about how you project yourself in your business dealings and where you can find areas to improve.
Here are the main areas I am going to focus on:
Over the next 8-part series I’ll break into each of these areas, share some personal stories, and hopefully get you to focus inward on self-awareness and how we can improve in all of these areas. Like a video game, we all have different levels of each of these, and some rank higher in certain areas than others. I expect you to be strong in some and weak in others. What is important is that we know we can improve in all of these areas and my goal is to get you to think differently about each and every one of these and how it applies toward working through partnerships in your sales career going forward.