We all have an ego, and that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with having a healthy ego. In fact, it plays a very important role. Essentially its there to make sure our needs are met. The word ego can be traced back to 19th century Latin where it literally meant “I”. The dictionary definition of ego is:
According to Psychology Today Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud conceived of the ego as the psychological apparatus that regulated sexual and aggressive impulses and navigated the tension between those impulses and the demands and values of society.
A more modern conception is to consider the ego as the self-consciousness system. The self-consciousness system is the narrating portion of human consciousness that reflects on one’s thoughts, feelings and actions and inhibits or legitimises them to one’s self and to others. In this sense, ego is very similar to what is meant by the term identity.
There are many elements that contribute to the healthy functioning of our ego, but one thing we know for sure is that when it comes to sales - ego can be a deal-killer.
As I’ve touched on above, ego isn’t just another word for confidence, pride, expertise, judgment, or experience, not at all, ego is quite different! Ego is all about promoting yourself and that can be a dangerous place to be when it comes to sales success.
When our mindset is driven by self-promoting ego, we crowd out any room for our client’s needs and their success. As sales professionals, we become dangerous because our ego can make us blind, deaf and stupid. We see and hear only what we want to see and hear, which inevitably leads us to poor judgment, poor execution and poor experiences for those we're meant to be serving.
I’m sure every one of us can think about a time when an ego-centric person tried to get you to do something that was in their best interest, but not yours. Did they inspire confidence? Did you trust the person? Quite the opposite right!
It’s more likely that you started to question their intent and became less interested in doing the thing they wanted you to do. Chances are you were also less likely to want to spend more time with them in future or build a relationship with them. None of which are great outcomes when you’re in the people business, which is essentially what sales is really all about – people.
The No-Ego Zone
There are four natural ego temptations that tend to come up when we meet with clients, specifically:
- Becoming Defensive when you sense the client is questioning your solution or your company.
- Seeking Approval when you lack the confidence in your skills or products.
- Demonstrating Brilliance on those days you feel like you're really 'on fire.'
- Exercising Control because you really need to muscle this deal through (maybe to hit your target or secure your place at the top of the sales league table).
We’ve all experienced each of these temptations at least once in our careers, so we know exactly what it feels like when our ego gets in the way. The key to changing this situation for ourselves is first to be aware of our ego and then to make the conscious decision to “Check our ego at the door”. Learning how to do this will help you stay in the "No-Ego Zone."
When you're aware of the temptations you face, it becomes so much easier to overcome them. Take a few minutes before each sales call, client meeting, or any interaction for that matter, to shift your focus from your needs to the other person's needs. Get out of your own head so that you can give them your full attention. Visualise the following graphic. Imagine the four temptations as boundaries and commit yourself to stay in the middle no matter what.
Remembering this great scene from the movie Hitch can also help you to stay focused and make sure your ego doesn’t show up by accident:
When you feel yourself start to bump up against one of the boundaries, give yourself a subtle prompt and move back to the center. Remember you are not your ego, you are free to choose your behaviour in any situation. Ultimately it's about awareness and choice, and both are in your control. The big question of course is now that you're aware, will you choose?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ian J Lowe is the Founder & CEO of eccoh, a sales transformation, coaching and consulting organisation pioneering a movement to change the way the world thinks about and experiences sales. Ultimately our goal is to break down the barriers between people. In my view sales is the most effective vehicle to achieve that objective. Salespeople touch more lives every day than just about any other profession, consequently, we have more opportunity than most to bring value to those interactions, whatever the outcome.
By working together to overcome challenges, build relationships based on trust, authenticity and genuine care for our fellow human beings inside and across workplaces throughout the world, we will eventually see a natural flow of that goodwill into our communities and throughout society as a whole. Salespeople can be a powerful force for collective good in the world - now that's a purpose I can believe in. If you can too let’s talk. Maybe we can make it happen together.
Image Credit: Hitch movie, Columbia Pictures 2005.