When I started work in my family’s business, I was hired to interview and place light industrial employees on assignments. Because it was a startup, I didn’t have enough orders to place the people I was interviewing, and I was directed to call companies to ask them for a meeting and see if I could help them get the people they needed to run their business. My title did not suggest that I was a salesperson, nor did anyone hint to me that these activities were called “sales.”
A few years later, I found myself in Los Angeles working for one of the largest staffing firms in the world. They hired me because no one wanted to operate the light industrial desk, and I applied for the job. If I am being honest, they hired me because I threatened to take another offer if they didn’t hire me on the spot (they wanted me to meet with the Vice President of the region first). No one at the new company gave me any training, and I did the job the way I believed to be correct, including calling companies and asking for meetings.
Sometime later, my manager left, and a new one took over. He recognized I won more clients than his salespeople, and he forced me into outside sales, something I was already doing—without knowing it.
Suddenly, selling went from being something easy and natural to something impossibly difficult. I had trouble getting meetings, the conversations with prospects weren’t the same, and I started to present the company using the tools they’d provided me. For a few months, I struggled. Something had changed for me, but I didn’t know what it was.
What had changed was my intentions. Instead of calling people to ask for a meeting to help them with their challenges, I was calling them to get a meeting so they could help me reach my goals. Instead of eliciting their challenges and sharing ideas about what might help them, I shared information about my company and our unique selling proposition. I used my expense account to take prospects to lunch, hoping that I could create a preference to work with me, something that literally failed every time.
I was trying too hard to sell. I wasn’t trying hard enough to help. My agenda shifted from what they were experiencing and needed to what I needed. Because I was failing, I went back to what was already working for me.
- How do you help people recognize their challenges and explore making changes to improve their circumstances and results?
- How do you help them discover new options and ideas that might benefit them?
- How do you make sure the people who are going to be impacted by a decision to change are confident moving forward with something new?
Selling isn’t something you are doing to someone; it is something you are doing with someone and for someone, and for their benefit. This practical approach is enough to shift your orientation from self to other, the most practical strategy for helping other people change.
You project your intentions, even if you don’t mean to, and if you don’t believe others can feel them.
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