As you enter the supermarket the bright colours of nature and fragrant aromas of fresh fruit and vegetables fill the air, you immediately feel positive, happy. The wide isles and clean, organic, straight from the farm like presentation make you feel comfortable, safe and trusting - you confidently place your healthy food items in your shopping trolley at one with your environment. Sounds nice right.
But wait! What’s really happening here?
You may not realise it but as soon as you walk in the store your buying behaviours are being influenced, if not manipulated. If you think about it having the fruit and vegies at the front of the store is a terrible idea because all that soft squishy goodness can easily get crushed and crunched by all the other stuff you buy, but they’re not placed in that location for your convenience, nope. They’re placed there because they lead to more sales for the supermarket. The legions of highly qualified supermarket psychologists know that when you by the healthy stuff at the start of your shopping trip, you buy more of the not so healthy stuff as you continue your mind controlled, wallet/purse-shrinking journey through the rest of the store.
Ouch! That hurts. If you’re anything like me you’ll also hate the idea that people or companies we depend on are behaving in a disingenuous way or doing things designed to trick, manipulate or in any way disguise their true intentions. We think we’re just buying fruit and vegies, only we’re not! If you know what I mean.
And herein lies the problem with ‘sales’ and the way it is typically taught, learned and practiced. It’s predicated on a control paradigm. Right now salespeople all around the world are huddled in training rooms, taking part in workshops or reading books about skills and techniques designed control the buying process in order to help them ‘make more sales’. If the supermarket example I shared above is anything to go by, what’s even more apparent is that the idea one can control the buying behaviours of customers or clients is also deeply embedded in the DNA and structure of the organisations themselves.
It can come as no surprise then that the ethics, morals and motivations of salespeople and sales organisations they work for are viewed with great suspicion.
I won’t replay that conversation but I do want to touch on the main theme, which was that as sales professionals "We can either use our skills and our interactions for nefarious or manipulative purposes, or we can use them as powers for good. If we embrace that - as a collective population - we can change the world for the better"
I firmly believe this big hairy audacious goal (thank you Jim Collins) is not only achievable; in todays increasingly purpose driven world it’s absolutely essential that we actually do achieve it. Easier said than done? For sure. Undoing decades of poor behaviour and dismantling the structures, power bases, egos and cultures that have become so dependent on this manipulative control paradigm is a mammoth effort.
You could say that each one of us is faced with a choice, much like the choice Neo faced when offered the Red Pill or the Blue Pill by Morpheus in The Matrix.
In The Matrix the human race had been reduced to little more than a power source for the machines, living out our ‘virtual lives’ in a programmed world created as the ultimate system of control. By taking the Red Pill Neo chose to break the chains that kept him in slavery. He chose to live as a free man in the real world and he chose to make it his mission to free as many other minds as he could.
Kung Foo skills aside, we are all potential Neo’s. But unlike the make-believe environment of The Matrix we already live in the real world, no Red Pill needed. The changes we need to see in the world of professional selling are ours to make, and we are all equipped to make them, here are some suggestions:
- Accept the inevitable truth that you are not in control of the decisions other people make and be OK with that
- Help others to make decisions that are in their best interest, not yours
- Reject manipulative techniques, skills or any approach that disguises your true intent and call it out when you see it others
- Be absolutely clear about your intent, be congruent with it, share it openly with others and have others share their intent with you, if you have alignment collaborate
- Free your mind of any preconceived solutions or agendas and instead be open to the unexpected possibilities and opportunities that will present themselves
- Rediscover and embrace your own unique value, own it, walk in it and make it your mission to touch as many lives as you can with the exceptional value you create, whether or not a sale takes place
This is certainly not a complete list so please add to it in the comments below. I would love to read your suggestions. In the meantime I’m off to the supermarket and I’m going to start my shopping trip at the opposite end to the fruit and veg!
Image Credit: The Matrix movie 1999, Universal Pictures