For many, the word “salesperson” elicits images of a slick talker focused solely on closing deals rather than helping customers, but Balto Sales Director Rob Westervelt wants salespeople to challenge that narrative.
In a line of work so often pigeonholed thanks to outdated attitudes, Rob has some tips about how sales pros can reframe their own perspective and achieve greater success.
Get Out of Your Own Head
Given the way sales is traditionally viewed, it’s easy to see why salespeople might enter the profession with some pre-established ideas of their own, but Rob suggests leaving those behind.
“Just get out of your own head about the preconceived notions of what sales is. Especially for people that might be starting in sales, or thinking about starting in sales, because it’s so different than it was 20 years ago, or 30 years ago.”
Although Rob acknowledges that some stereotypical salespeople still exist, he says it’s important to adjust your perspective, because times have changed.
“It’s not that picture that everybody has of the fast-talking person in a suit that’s just kind of greasy and you feel like you’re going to walk away from that meeting like, ‘Wow, that person just took advantage of me. I can’t believe I’m paying them money.’ It’s so different now.”
In addition to preconceived notions about how salespeople approach their work, Rob also says it’s time to rethink which personality types make for great salespeople as buyers become more interested in genuine interactions.
“Everybody wants to think that you have to be some crazy outgoing, life of the party to kill it in sales. Honestly, it’s kind of the opposite sometimes because those people can sometimes come across as not genuine. I think people nowadays look for genuine people to buy from.”
Despite the reputation sales may have in general, Rob advises salespeople today to take a more modern approach. Relentless pitching or schemey tactics may have been common decades ago, but the landscape has changed, so leave preconceptions behind when entering this field.
Use Creative Problem Solving
Rather than hyper-focusing on closing sales, Rob suggests viewing yourself as a creative problem solver — one that’s willing to accept when your solution isn’t the right fit.
“In salespeople I look for someone that wants to be a problem solver. How can you creatively solve a problem for someone? Sometimes that means not even the stuff that you’re selling. You might say, ‘Hey, this is a really great conversation, but I can’t help you with what we do. But I do know that there’s other people that I’ve talked with that do ‘this’ instead.’”
When you’re focused on solving a problem rather than closing a sale, you can help potential customers uncover issues and leave them with a positive, productive experience.
“You need to help them identify which of those problems are very real, and maybe even bring up ones that they don’t know are there from your expertise. ‘Hey, this is something we hear a lot of from people in your industry. Is that something you guys are experiencing?’ Get them to understand that problem is costing them money every day. And so that they’re not looking at it as some salesperson is promising them some ROI of millions of dollars. It’s more just, ‘I have this problem and I need to solve it.’”
When you replace structured pitching with creative problem solving, you may have better luck forging the sort of genuine connections that buyers today are after.
Prioritize Quality Conversations
Rob says active listening and asking clarifying questions are big for fostering productive conversations. The last thing you want is to leave potential customers with the impression that you aren’t interested in what they have to say.
“I always think about how frustrating it is when you talk to someone, and maybe you ask a question or even you tell this really in-depth story. And then their response to your question has nothing to do with what you asked, or they don’t even really acknowledge any part of that story you just told. They just move on.”
When in doubt, Rob suggests asking more questions to ensure what you’re talking about is relevant.
“A conversation can go so much more smoothly if, when you don’t fully understand a question, you just say, ‘Sorry, could you expand on that?’ … And just getting to that root of, ‘What are you asking?’ Instead of talking for five minutes and they’re like, ‘Cool. That just wasted all of my time and you didn’t answer my question.’”
Whether you’re a sales veteran or novice, Rob’s overarching advice is simple: challenge your preconceptions about what a salesperson is and allow yourself to focus on solving problems.
“Genuine” may not be the first word that comes to mind when you think of a salesperson, but perhaps it should be. As buyers become more discerning and pitches pivot to conversations, challenge those old stereotypes and embrace a more authentic approach to forge success in sales.