When most people are asked to describe salespeople what words come to mind? In his book To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink did research on that very question. Out of the 25 words used most often to describe sales, were the words “Pushy, yuck, difficult, hard, and ugh.” Those are not very positive words and pretty discouraging if your work involves any type of sales.
Throughout the book, Pink succeeds in making the case that all people are involved in some type of sales/ it is human. Sales involves moving people, it involves some degree of persuasion. EVERYONE who wants to help people tries to move people in a beneficial direction. Sales can be very positive for people; the idea or service we sell can dramatically improve their lives. Or it can be negative, ripping them off and leaving them worse off than we found them. (If you are involved in this second type of selling, then please leave and go somewhere else; what comes next is not for you and will not benefit you. If, however, you are part of the human majority and want sales to be a win-win, then read on.)
Pink highlights Tammy Darvish who is vice-president of DARCARS Automotive Group, one of the largest car dealerships on the East Coast. She started in sales, as the owner’s daughter, and quickly became the top salesman. Their company has the increasingly popular policy of hiring people who have no previous sales experience. They do this because they do not want salespeople bringing unproductive sales techniques into the DARCARS environment. As many excellent companies do, they want to train them according to their values and principles.
Do you know what the two traits are that they most look for? The first one makes sense and so does the second one, but based on how most of us think about sales, the second one will probably surprise you; it did me.
1. Perseverance. Yea, I get that one. Perseverance is one of those traits that is essential for long-term success for anyone. In any field, if you want to be good or great, you have to be willing to keep going, not quit, conquer discouragement and stay positive. Especially in sales, because sales always involves some rejection.
2. Empathy. If you asked most sales-oriented companies what traits they most look for and want to develop in salespeople, would empathy come to mind? Probably not. But when you think about it, for win-win sales it makes sense. If you really care about the person you are talking to, you want to help them and you want to do what is best for them. Darvish said, “You can’t train someone to care.” To her the greatest salespeople are those who ask themselves, “What decision would I make if that were my own mom sitting there trying to get service or buy a car?”
I agree with Darvish and Pink that empathy is a great, needed trait to move people. Where I disagree with Darvish is that you can’t train people to care. I think caring and empathy is very learnable and trainable IF the person wants to learn. If it is worth it to a company to take the time to train someone in this trait is another matter, but just reading that “empathy and mom” quote, reminds me to think that way today and probably longer. Since what we think most about changes behavior, thinking about caring and empathy can help me behave that way more often. It will work for you too.
If you want to improve your ability to move people, becoming a person who keeps going for the long-haul and thinking about what is best for the people you are involved with are great foundations to build on.
Will you keep going? Will you care?