With millions of dollars spent every year to develop top-notch sales talent, you may not believe that there is just one key trait that you need to master in order to become that rock star sales rep you aspire to be. Ironically it flies in the face of the well-developed training programs that companies invest in day after day. In fact the more you focus on training yourself, the further you move away from the one trait that will win the hearts of your clients every time.
What is this magic potion solution you may ask? Well before I give in that easily, let’s look at those reps that you have seen in your career who, despite following the standard formula for success, they break the rules and still succeed. We all know at least a couple of these anomalies. They can be that older rep who never has figured out CRM or even a smartphone, yet they bring in the sales. Or maybe it’s that young millennial who refuses to conform to office standards and yet seems to just click with their customers. It’s the Tommy Boy effect really, that rep that does everything wrong and yet he still seems to sell a half a million brake pads!
We all look at this rare group with mixed emotion. Some days, it’s resentment for their lack of respect for rules, direction and protocol. Other days it is with respect or admiration that they have the success they enjoy without care for falling in line or ‘being managed’. Often times the talk around the office is that of “What should we do with them? Their attitude flies in the face of management, yet they bring in the sales.”
Every team seems to have one or two of these cats over time and yet there only seems to be room for one or two at a time. More than that would lead to total anarchy. No need for middle management or leadership. What would the sales structure look like then?
But what is the common thread among these would-be trouble makers? There is something in each of them that makes them connect with people, win over clients and maintain long term customers. It’s the trait that we love to both admire and hate about them. It’s also the trait we all wish we had the bravery to develop. Get ready to walk away from your training seminars and embrace the one thing you need to do.
This group of men and women have one trait in common: authenticity.
More than anything, people want to work with people. And people know when you are being honest, genuine and authentic. Trust is the primary need in any relationship. When a client is going to give you their money, and more importantly rely on you to come through for them, they need to know they can trust you. It’s hard to trust someone that you do not at your core feel is being genuine. Authenticity shines through and your customers pick up on it.
Our gut feelings get in the way of business deals every day. You may not even believe that someone has a dastardly plan to double-cross you, but if something just does not feel right, does not feel natural, it feels better to walk away and find a better connection. When we get the feeling that someone is not being genuine, these are the questions we are left with. An opportunity to second guess your judgment is an opportunity for someone to lose a sale, or even worse a long term relationship.
getting in THE WAY
So does training really get in the way of our authentic selves? Well, it certainly can. Of course, some training can be great for developing skills and learning to understand processes. The problem enters when the training and process become the focus above and beyond being true to ourselves and taking care of our customer. When we are so wrapped up in checking the boxes and moving through a ‘sales process’, we lose sight of the two most important variables in the relationship with our customers: the customer’s needs, and being ourselves.
That experience is like when you work your way through the entire grocery store, line up all of your items on the belt to check out, and the clerk rushes through your order throwing your hand selected produce into a bag to get you out of the door as fast as possible without even looking up to connect with you. Their job as they see it is to get through the process, get you out the door, to finish the sale. It is not to connect with you, and make sure you found what you needed. But what were your expectations? Did you want to be rushed through a process or did you hope to connect with another person as you finished your errands for the day?
How do we show inauthenticity in our behaviors? Well, think back on your own life experiences. Have you known someone who has been so eager to please, to get on your good side, or to join the club that they look for what to do that will be the ‘right’ thing? How much trust or respect have you had for this person? Typically we feel like they will do whatever they need to do to impress us, which ironically leaves us even less impressed. It feels as if they do not value us enough to give us their authentic self.
Personally I lived this way for years, always afraid that being myself would hold me back from precious opportunities. In group lunches waiting to order food until last, mimicking the style of clothing in others, even watching body language to make sure I was in sync with the ‘cool kids’. The amount of attention I spent fitting in directly pulled away from the amount of attention I could use to tend to pressing issues. And all the while I was losing respect and missing opportunities.
Being genuine has opened up new doors and made maintaining relationships much easier. Each time I had to think about how to behave, was time spent away from the opportunity before me. Even the sales process does not seem like nearly the amount of work as it once was. When you behave naturally, all of your time and energy can be devoted to really taking care of your customers’ needs, your own success, and your personal happiness.
So we may look to those who go against the grain as rule breakers. We may think they just do not care. And there, in fact, could be some truth to that. Perhaps they are breaking the rules. Perhaps they really do not care, at least not about what everyone thinks of them. Perhaps they do care enough that they have figured it out. They have figured out that what people want most is a sales rep they can trust, and in order to show just how much they can be trusted, they let down their guard to show even their biggest vulnerabilities by being authentic.