“Pride cometh before a fall” – Biblical Proverb
Many of the stereotypes of salespeople are unfair. Not all of us are the money-hungry, hyper-competitive, egotists portrayed in movies like Boiler Room. Still, some grains of truth can be found in the way we act when times are good. Consider the following reasons why, as a salesperson, you might love your job:
You love the money and all it brings
The fit of a new suit. The sparkle of a new stone. The smell of a new car. Who doesn’t savor these things?
You enjoy the respect you receive from mangement and co-workers.
You just finshed a great sales year. Your name mentioned multiple times at the sales meeting. Co-workers are asking for your secrets. Life is good!
Your customers love you!
Obviously they do. They buy from you, don’t they? Being liked is much better than the alternative. No doubt, a salesperson can make the difference when choosing between two similar products.
You play to win. And, more often than not, you do.
You’ve never shied away from a fight. You take pride in how focused you are on achieving your goals. Other salespeople aren’t as effective because they’re less confident or they get distracted with customer concerns.
“Yes? So what’s the problem?”, might be the response of a typical salesman at this point. Read on, if you dare, and see how your love for sales may betray you.
Big Money, Bigger Problems
The joy of spending money is in all things new. Alas, like the sales contest you won last month, all things new become old. After a long day of enticing customers with new things, we often, ourselves fall victim to them. Sometimes we make them the very purpose of our work.
Do we expect physicians to work soley for the money? Of course not. They take an oath to put a patient’s welfare before themselves. Teachers consistently say they teach for the joy of teaching. Yes, there are others, perhaps a vast majority of people, for whom work is strictly a means to a paycheck. Sales is different. Salespeople are enticed with wealth.
“Glittering prizes and endless compromises, Shatter the illusion of integrity.”– Neil Peart
In the place of taking serious oaths, salespeople jump and cheer at sales meetings for the new goodies that define next year’s success. Houses have house payments. Expensive jewelry needs to be insured. Luxury cars have luxury repair bills. As years tick by, a salesperson’s “success” accumulates until she wakes up to working for a company she hates, just to pay the bills.
The price of fame
One month after finishing on top of the salesforce you receive the new year’s sales goal. You now have to sell 30% more than you did last year! Within a span of weeks, the intense effort you put in last year becomes “not enough”. Following traditional (and de-motivating) sales management logic, you can never be allowed to feel too confident. Why? Because confident salespeople are lazy! Salespeople respond by working harder to regain that original feeling of confidence. There is another group of people who live in constant pursuit of an original good feeling. They’re called drug addicts.
When you work for the respect of your co-workers you give up something much more important. Respect for yourself.
Your customer is cheating on you
The result of basking in too much customer praise is, however, blindness. We get so wrapped up in being charming that we fail to realize our customers have jobs to do and lives of their own. Salespeople who believe they are loved are often not listening to their customers. Take away the product they sell and away goes the romance. Relationships are important. Still more important is the problem you solve for your customer. That’s why you’re getting their time and attention. If you’ve done your job correctly, your customer is in love with your product, not you.
Playing to an empty stadium
However effective in short-term scenarios, theres a problem with focusing on competition in sales. Customers don’t care. When buying a car, do you want to work with the Salesman of the Year to wait on you or someone who needs your business? Customers like what you and your company do to help them solve problems. The more difficult their problems, the more creativity is required. When we’re in competition mode, our brains can only focus on a few things. To customers, this makes you appear single-minded. This isn’t helpful when an innovative solution is required.
Should salespeople fear success instead?
No. Don’t fear success. Fear the all-consuming need for success. It’s easy to love something when it gives you immediate rewards. A new car never looks (or smells) better than the day you drive it off the lot. Romantic relationships feel great when we haven’t been with the other person long enough to have a disagreement. Being a salesperson feels great when you’re on top. What matters is this, do you have a reason to go to work when times aren’t good? Don’t let what feels good now set you up for disappointment in the future.