Trust Me I'm In Sales

One of my favourite books is Smart Trust written by Stephen M.R. Covey andGreg Link. This post was inspired by the following passage from the book:

“Bottom line, in good times and bad, is that the motive that best builds trust is caring; the motive that destroys trust is exclusive self-interest. The agenda that best builds trust is mutual benefit; the agenda that destroys trust is ‘win at all costs’. And the test of both caring and agenda is transparency: How would people feel, and how would you feel, if your true intent were published to all the world? And how would it affect people’s willingness to extend trust to you?”

If we were to ask people to associate key words in this paragraph with sales I suspect that self-interest and win at all costs would be high on the list, followed closely by a lack of transparency in the sales process and not surprisingly low trust. Of course I am generalising, there are certainly many exceptions out there in the big wide world, where caring, mutual benefit, transparency and high trust would be hard earned and very well deserved.

However I fear that is not the case for the vast majority. I’ve come to think that one of the key reasons sales has become so dysfunctional is that we’ve developed an unhealthy dependency on sales techniques and skills and in doing so we’re moving further and further away from the values and principles we share with our fellow humans. It’s a somewhat paradoxical situation because at one level advances in technology mean the world has never been more connected, yet at the same time many people feel more isolated, disconnected and less trusting of each other than ever before, especially in the corporate world.

We are social beings by design, we have an innate need to connect with others, indeed our success as a species over 200,000+ years has been built on our abilities to connect, communicate and collaborate. But when it comes to sales we seem to place greater value on the latest greatest sales techniques and behave more like pre-programmed Sales Terminators.

It’s a little challenging to get a fix on the amount of money being spent on sales training services globally but the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) reports that US companies spend about $20 billion a year on sales training. With such a huge investment it would be reasonable to think that sellers and buyers would be partners in success rather than adversaries doing battle.  But they're not and they are.

In an effort to defend themselves against this onslaught buyers of products and services have developed their own techniques, skills and processes in an attempt to neutralise the ability of Sales Terminators to penetrate their organisations and manipulate their unsuspecting executives. They’ve become very adept at isolating their 'foe' by creating purchasing departments and using tenders or RFP’s to limit interaction and control the process thinking somehow this will tip the scales back in their favour. Of course it doesn't.

It’s a ridiculous cycle and we can’t sell our way out of it but we can behave our way out of it. To paraphrase a famous Gandhi quote “we need to be the change”. It starts with us. We need get back to what success in life and business is really all about; and it has little or nothing to do with sales techniques.

“At this instant, all over the globe, all of humanity is breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide. So is the rest of the animal kingdom. And right now, at this very instant, all over the globe, the billions and billions of organisms of the plant kingdom are doing exactly the opposite, they’re breathing in carbon dioxide and breathing out oxygen. Their giving is our receiving and our giving is their receiving.” The Go-Giver Bob Burg &John David Mann

That flow of giving and receiving is not only what life on our planet is all about, it’s exactly what every business is all about. That flow is also the goal and purpose of sales and selling. Unfortunately traditional technique driven sales attitudes and approaches are effectively closing down the flow of giving and receiving because they undermine trust.

To illustrate are you turning up at meetings and starting out by saying something like “Mr Client, thank you for seeing me today. I’m going to be using sales techniques I learnt from attending Jordan Belfort’s Straight Line sales training program in our conversation today.”

It’s a safe bet that’s not what you’re going to say, even if you are in fact using that approach, you wouldn’t want to volunteer that information because it would likely be a very short meeting. I’ve chosen the infamous ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ to emphasise the point but it really doesn’t matter what sales techniques you’re employing, the reality is they can easily get in the way.

In closing I want to leave you with the powerful questions I started this post with “How would people feel, and how would you feel, if your true intent were published to all the world? And how would it affect people’s willingness to extend trust to you?”

If you can answer these questions with absolute confidence, clarity and pride then keep going, you’re most likely on the right path. If however you struggle, waiver, hesitate or have any sense your clients would be less than pleased then it’s time to rethink. 

Ian J Lowe is the CEO of Go-Givers Australia, 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. Download the first chapter of ‘The Go-Giver and Go-Givers sell More’ here.

Image Credit: Terminator Genisys - Paramount Pictures 2015