[Basie]: Buying and selling, Frank. You know. Life.
– Empire of the Sun (1987)
In the world of commerce, the term “selling” often conjures images of persuasive pitches, strategic negotiations, and closing deals. While these aspects are undoubtedly part of the sales process, a deeper exploration reveals that selling encompasses a complex tapestry of skills, mindset, and interpersonal connections. In essence, selling is not just about transactions; it’s about building transformative connections that go beyond the exchange of goods or services.
The Unsold Mindset
“Great sellers do one thing exceptionally better than most people: they ask questions that people haven’t heard of before.”
-Colin Coggins and Garrett Brown, The Unsold Mindset
- Contrary Sales Traits:
- The best salespeople are not necessarily skilled at overcoming objections or highly extroverted.
- Social awareness is a crucial trait, recognizing when something said doesn’t land and being able to course-correct.
- The Unsold Mindset suggests that everyone is selling something in their daily lives.
- Authenticity and Vulnerability:
- Successful salespeople give themselves permission to be authentic and vulnerable.
- Intentional ignorance is a strategy, focusing on what they are passionate about and ignoring aspects that may hinder authenticity.
- Vulnerability, such as talking to oneself in front of others, builds genuine connections.
- How Sellers View Themselves:
- Great sellers view their role as teachers or problem solvers rather than persuaders.
- They focus on adding value and making those around them better.
- Asking impactful questions that prompt real-time ideation is a key skill.
- Goals with Purpose:
- Great sellers emphasize the importance of purpose in goal-setting.
- Purpose is seen as the finish line, and goals are viewed as mile markers toward that purpose.
- Conditioned Positivity:
- Great sellers cultivate a positive mindset by conditioning themselves to look for the good.
- They celebrate failures and successes differently and view obstacles as opportunities for breakthroughs.
- They curate a positive experience in their minds and refuse to be someone they are not.
The Unsold Mindset: Redefining the Sales Paradigm
Contrary to common stereotypes, the best salespeople are not mere masters of objection handling or charismatic extroverts. The Unsold Mindset, a concept that challenges conventional perceptions, emphasizes that successful sales professionals are those who possess high social awareness. They recognize that communication is a two-way street, understanding when their words resonate and, crucially, when adjustments are needed.
Whether it’s in a classroom setting or a corporate boardroom, individuals attending sales training often have diverse motivations. Some seek to sell themselves to become leaders, while others aim to sell ideas or products. The common thread, however, is the realization that everyone is, in some way, engaged in the act of selling on a daily basis.
The incongruence arises when people are asked about their perception of a salesperson. The responses are often colored with negative connotations, ranging from sleazy and pushy to manipulative. However, a fascinating twist occurs when the question shifts to identifying the greatest salesperson. The top answers, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Steve Jobs, challenge the negative stereotype, sparking a journey to understand what makes a great salesperson.
Authenticity and Vulnerability: Keys to Transformative Connections
Great salespeople differentiate themselves by giving themselves permission to be authentic and vulnerable. This authenticity goes beyond a buzzword; it’s about being hyper-authentic, creating an infrastructure that mitigates inauthenticity. One powerful example is intentional ignorance, where individuals purposely ignore aspects of their work that might compromise their genuine passion and authenticity.
General Stanley McChrystal’s leadership style exemplifies this approach. Rather than projecting an image of having all the answers, he focused on empowering those around him to leverage their expertise. This vulnerability, admitting to not having all the answers, was a source of strength and authenticity.
Similarly, an advertising executive openly admitted her lack of knowledge in technology. Instead of pretending to know everything, she embraced vulnerability, fostering a reputation for resourcefulness. The key revelation here is that vulnerability isn’t a tactic but a genuine expression, creating connections and building trust.
A remarkable commonality among great salespeople is their comfort in having vulnerable conversations out loud. This transparency, often referred to as “showing your work,” involves letting others into their thought processes. Whether it’s a sales executive questioning his introduction or a trial lawyer admitting to forgetting his argument, these micro-moments of connection build bridges of authenticity.
How Sellers View Themselves: Shifting Perspectives for Value Creation
The paradigm shift in selling involves how sellers perceive themselves. Rather than seeing their role as persuaders, great sellers position themselves as teachers or problem solvers. The emphasis is on adding value and making everyone around them better.
One standout skill of exceptional sellers is their ability to ask impactful questions. These are not leading questions with predetermined answers; instead, they are inquiries that prompt real-time ideation. By fostering a sense of agency in those they are selling to, great sellers enable individuals to feel part of the decision-making process. This shift from selling to creating a collaborative, value-driven environment is transformative.
Goals with Purpose: The North Star of Great Sellers
While goal-setting is a fundamental aspect of any profession, great sellers intertwine their goals with a sense of purpose. For them, purpose is the finish line, and goals are the mile markers leading toward that destination. In a world where many may have goals but lack a clear articulation of their purpose, great sellers stand out.
This purpose-driven approach aligns their efforts with a broader vision, providing direction and motivation. Rather than viewing goals as mere tasks to accomplish, they see them as integral components of a larger narrative. This alignment of purpose and goals not only propels sellers forward but also adds a layer of authenticity to their aspirations.
Conditioned Positivity: Shaping the Mindset for Success
The malleability of the human brain is a powerful asset, and great sellers leverage it to cultivate positivity. They condition themselves to look for and find the good in every situation. This intentional focus on positivity becomes a key differentiator, allowing them to celebrate both failures and successes in a unique manner.
These sellers understand that breakthroughs often come after breaking through obstacles. By curating a positive experience within their minds, they approach challenges as opportunities for growth. This textured experience, combined with a refusal to be someone they are not, gives them a distinct advantage in navigating the complexities of the sales landscape.
In conclusion, selling goes far beyond the transactional aspects commonly associated with the term. It is a multifaceted endeavor that involves social awareness, authenticity, vulnerability, a redefined self-perception, purpose-driven goal-setting, and conditioned positivity. The transformative connections built by great sellers resonate not only in the business realm but also in the broader tapestry of human interactions. As we unravel the layers of what selling truly means, we discover a profound journey of connection, growth, and authentic value creation.