There is a difference between being likable (something I recommend, as it can build rapport faster and more naturally), and the need to be liked (something that will limit your success in sales, management, leadership, and success more generally). Post-Challenger Sale, the idea that relationships are not essential and that one needn’t be liked are prevalent in the places where prognosticators do their prognosticating.
While it’s true that competency counts, the idea that one need not worry about their bedside manner (desk-side manner, for our purposes) is a dangerous idea. The need to be liked is more often than not detrimental to success in sales. However, having someone unhappy with you is not the same thing as not being liked.
If you are worried that a gatekeeper with the power to say no to your request to a meeting, and who also lacks the power to say yes to a deal, is preventing you from meeting with a stakeholder, obtaining that meeting may require that you choose another path. Taking a path that is almost certain to make the gatekeeper unhappy, and it isn’t a decision you take lightly (and nor is it one you should take after a single attempt unless there is real urgency), but it may be necessary to go over, under, or around the gatekeeper.
Persistence is also a trait that, while being necessary for success in sales, can cause some people to become a little miffed with your attempts to gain a meeting with them. As a sales leader, I always expect one or two calls to complain about a salesperson’s persistent efforts to contact them. I was guilty of this when I started selling, and at some point I learned to say, “I am so sorry I am over-zealous in my attempts to get a meeting with you, but I want you to know I’ll be just as over-zealous in making sure you get what you need.” This mostly reduced their annoyance with my persistence.
If you aspire to be your dream client’s strategic partner, from time to time, you are going to have to share ideas that conflict with what your client believes and what they want. Some people will be pleased with having someone push back against his or her ideas, but others will be unhappy. If you’re going to provide the best advice, you have to be willing to have people be unhappy with you occasionally.
You have to be comfortable with people being unhappy with you, but that doesn’t mean that you should work to achieve that outcome—and is should certainly not be their default experience with you. The occasions should be rare, and you should do everything in your power to use charm and levity and collaboration to have tough conversations without making them worse than they have to be.
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Filed under: Mindset