I am an advocate for the philosophy that “everybody lives by selling something‟ and that people buy from people they trust. At its best, selling is about the principle of exchange; the exchange of value where both parties benefit from open and transparent communication and know what they are engaging in.
However, building trust with your clients and those external to your company isn’t where it ends. Internal trust is equally important. Internally, we have our sales team, those who are at the forefront of our selling. Trust needs to begin from within – from sales managers to the sales team and your salespeople as individuals. Only when we have built the foundation of trust in-house can we genuinely engage with those we are selling to and start to build a trusting relationship with them.
One way to build internal trust is to allow your salespeople to be a part of your business. This will build a sense of trust between your business and your sales people. We need them to know and understand how business works and what the business’s commercial drivers are. We want our sales people to be aware of how the business develops strategies in order to optimize the potential profitability of sales and to measure the financial value of the customer/organization relationship.
The answer lies in giving our salespeople access to information or introductory training on the fundamentals in business, and the opportunity to review true-to-life case studies about how their business integrates with customers’ businesses is a good place to start. We can then trust that our sales people can develop their own sales strategies and do the thinking and analysis on their business and that of their customers and markets.
Telling our sales people that they are a part of the big picture and are not just there purely to ‘sell’ will give them a larger purpose to their role and, in return, your salespeople will develop a sense of trust for your business and management for being entrusted with key business knowledge and the opportunity to progress.
It’s also important for those within your sales team to build trust towards one another. This can prove difficult when previous years have taught salespeople to treat their profession as a competitive sport and many sales managers still view their sales teams this way. ‘Old school’ sales management said that you had to have sales people competing with each other or they wouldn’t sell. You weren’t a legitimate sales team if you didn’t have league tables. They said that internal competition would motivate people to sell more.
Well, they are wrong. This type of approach, with a highly competitive atmosphere, is simply outdated.
Don’t get me wrong, healthy competition is important for sales professionals, but try to steer clear of pitting salespeople against each other for one to achieve ‘top dog’ status. There are a growing number of businesses adopting more collegiate, lead team approaches. However, despite different types of cultures, sales performance and results are usually derived from the efforts of individuals. Harnessing those individual efforts to achieve synergy (the sum is greater than its individual parts) is a key task of management and is what will ultimately build a sense of trust and respect amongst those in the sales team.
Why create competition where it doesn’t need to be? Why make selling harder than it needs to be? If you want to generate real sales growth, try harnessing the energy, talent and ambitions of your sales team in a constructive way where they can all achieve their individual goals along with those of the company without trying to ‘kill each other in the process. Remember the old saying “a team of champions will not beat a champion team‟?
Once we have our sales people and sales team as a whole understanding the value of trust and mutual respect, they are then able to implement this fundamental element of relationship building into their relationships with customers.
In the 20th Century, selling would commonly be referred to in the following ways:· Customers were ‘Targets’. Getting a sale was referred to as ‘the Kill’. Customers were regarded as objects to be possessed or trophies to be placed in the cabinet, to be shown off and admired like stuffed animal heads on the wall.
However, in today’s world of selling, your values, how you act, and what you stand for are just as important as your technical skills and capabilities. Building relationships that are based on trust and mutual understanding is the foundation of any relationship and relationships with your customers are no different. As sales people, we need to build trust, listen ethically, and show interest in what our customers are trying to tell us.
We need to show more empathy. We need to give ourselves permission to drop the ‘game face’ and be more real. We need to recognize that softness is not weakness. We need to learn how to sell more with emotion and combine it with fact. We need to be able to listen more effectively which will build our authenticity and genuineness. We need to have conversations, not monologues.
The time has arrived to move beyond the old sales stereotypes and enter the real world of the honorable sales professional. All your knowledge, skill, products, company infrastructure, and brand will mean nothing without integrity and building a relationship on a foundation of trust.
Sue Barrett is an experienced business speaker and adviser, facilitator, sales coach, training provider and entrepreneur, and founder of Barrett Consulting.