What does a mission to the marketplace look like, and how can we learn from Jesus’ example to be both savvy sellers and engaged evangelists at the same time? Christ spent nearly all of his ministry in the marketplace — working with the people right where they were, meeting their basic needs.
He recognized and met those needs by providing food (multiplying the loaves), healthcare (healing all those with faith to be healed), and community (ministering to the disciples who followed him). As a sales professional, your mission to the marketplace is not that different from His.
The key to taking a Biblical approach to sales performance lies in understanding the goal.
In the world, the goal is simply to ‘make your numbers’ and generate financial results for your company. But behind this is the impact that sales have on the lives of people. Your products or services can have a meaningful impact on your customer’s quality of life, while the revenue your sales generate helps provide family-sustaining wages to your company’s employees.
Remember — without sales, no one else in your company gets paid. Your role is indeed a noble one, and that is why Jesus offers many rich examples for sales professionals. Here are three Biblical concepts to keep in mind as you think about improving your sales performance — or that of your team:
1. Put the buyer first: Better sales performance begins with understanding your buyer.
If you want to improve sales impact, begin by focusing on listening skills. Most failed sales are lost due to a mismatch between buyer needs and seller priorities, or between seller messages and buyer understanding. Too often, a salesperson becomes comfortable (and confident) extolling the benefits of a given product or service but fails to listen for queues that indicate the buyer’s actual needs, fears, or wants. If you choose any one thing to improve your sales performance as a marketplace missionary, do this: Focus on listening.
Let your interactions be all about the prospect before you try to solve their problem with your ‘stuff’. Be curious about what is most important to your prospects and ask probing questions to elicit that information. Elicit serious opinions from them, and let them see clearly that you respect their opinions, wants, desires and needs. Let them know that you realize they are the ones with the decision-making power, not you. Your job is to provide all that they need to make a well-qualified decision.
2. Respect the other person’s decision, whether you agree with it or not.
All decisions have an emotional component that is unique to each individual involved in the decision-making process. One reason why it is so important to listen in the sales process is because listening both informs you more clearly about buyer objectives and allows you to interject some much-needed calm and reassurance into a stressful process. Major buying decisions (and often minor ones) are highly stressful, and anything you can do to improve the climate for decision-making is good. Decision-making is ultimately an emotional process.
After all, past performance is never a guarantee of future results, so no matter what you say (or your buyer believes), recognize that they are always taking a ‘leap’ of faith by choosing to do business with you. One sales team in a highly complex industry tossed aside all of their marketing literature about features, benefits, and advantages and focused entirely on one question: how to make the product work, regardless of what vendor was selected. The approach worked because most buyers become quickly overwhelmed with competitive data and often can’t remember which product offers which feature; and because the number one fear of any buyer is making a mistake.
3. Be a person of your word. Let your actions speak for your character – because reputations build relationships, and relationships build results.
Your reputation is what makes or breaks your business relationships. Are you a gracious host? Do you listen carefully and engage others? During networking events, do you take time to introduce and connect other people to each other? Do you stay in contact with existing customers to make sure their needs are being met, without expecting any favors in return? The more you demonstrate leadership and consistency with customers and prospects, the more you will gain a reputation as a reliable person.
Often, sales representatives choose to work for a company because they believe its reputation will boost their own. In reality, the opposite is often the case: It is the reputation of a high-quality sales professional that has the most impact on the company. As you can see, each of these three concepts integrates with the others. Strong listening and diagnosing skills lend a sense of calm and order to the sales process, which in turn improves the emotional tone of the decision itself, and builds a positive reputation for the sales representative and the company.
By taking these three Biblical concepts to heart, and implementing them in your sales approach, you’ll improve your short-term impact and long-term career as you show the character traits appropriate to your faith in the marketplace.