The Naked Sales Person

It was a business event with a difference. The location was a beautiful coworking space in the Sydney CBD known as Workclub and the room was full of entrepreneurs, business owners and executives, but this wasn’t your typical handshaking, business card exchanging, getting to know you networking session.

The group had assembled to enjoy an acoustic performance with a twist by composer, artist, collaborator and Affector Ben Romalis. Glasses of red wine in hand and with cheese and crackers in plentiful supply the group was tightly huddled, in very close proximity to each other, Ben and his two guitars, it was an intimate affair.

Ben started out by re-framing our expectations. This wasn’t going to be a sit back and enjoy the music type of event, not at all. In fact we were all part of the performance. Ben explained there should be no barrier between artist and audience and tonight we were very much companions on a journey to create, explore and experience sights, sounds and emotions.

It was fantastic. We talked, we discussed, we challenged, we were moved emotionally, we travelled too far of locations in time and geography and deep in to our own memories. Ben’s magic fingers and his ability to interpret the mood and conversation instantly producing beautifully evocative music was incredible. What has all this got to do with naked sales people?  Good question.

One thing Ben said really had an impact on me and it’s been on my mind ever since.  I’ve asked Ben to replay what he said below:

“We all need to practice, to go through the repetitive task of building our skill base and strengthening muscle memory. But a problem arises when we mistake the practice of our craft for the execution of it. 
I found myself booking in long periods of time for practice, desperate to get better, eager to speed up the learning process with some dedicated effort. But this clinical approach only served to dishearten me, for while I did improve, I also came to resent the thing I was trying to improve for! Music had been reduced to a mechanical act. 
This is not what makes music enjoyable, at least not for me anyway. My love of music comes from its limitless potential to violate expectations. The act of constructing a composition through exploration and play is, in itself, a most rewarding experience. And so at some point, I decided not to practice any more. I decided instead to write, to perform and to play; still committed to the quality of my work but no longer desperate to put rigid parameters for improvement in place. 
Two things happened:
I began to enjoy, even more, the thing I’d always loved about my art: the making of it.
My skill base improved quickly and with focus.”

It occurred to me there are incredible parallels between Ben’s experience and the experiences that have led so many in the world of sales to become disheartened. In our desperate clamber for ways to ‘make more sales’ we’ve become so clinical in our approach that we’ve lost touch with the natural beauty, flow and uncertainty of human interaction. We fear it and instead we try to control, to manipulate and to short circuit that interaction.

Sales at its core is about people yet the very essence of our humanity; passion, curiosity, creativity, authenticity and trust has been diminished in favour of a mechanical execution of the ‘sales process’.

This shallow construct inhibits our ability to connect, which means we and our clients are typically not companions on a journey of mutual exploration and discovery, in fact were often going in completely opposite directions.

As Ben so eloquently describes his love of music comes from its limitless potential, from exploring new possibilities, violating expectations, writing, performing and playing rather than from rigid parameters. Indeed every great breakthrough in music and the arts has come as a result of a break with conventional ‘rigid’ thinking. The same is true for sales people and sales success. Sales isn’t a cold clinical, mechanical process. It’s alive. It’s living and breathing. It’s people and it needs to be free in order to flourish.

However, as long as we dress ourselves in the robes of sales techniques, skills, fake empathy and inauthentic behaviours we will be just like Ben hating the routine of doing scales time after time on his beloved guitar. It’s time to get naked. To let those robes drop to the floor. To be real. To be vulnerable. To love who you are and love what you do. Sales is the rhythm of business and its time to let the music play. Can you hear it?

Ian J Lowe is the CEO of eccoh, a sales transformation, coaching and consulting organisation offering a unique culture-defining philosophy and framework that makes giving value the cornerstone of a refreshingly open and authentic approach to selling.

Image Credit: V for Vendetta Movie - 2005 Warner Bros