Death and Resurrection of a Salesperson

Audio Version

Eddy was a salesperson. He felt thrilled when he scored a job with a company that sells digital training for children. Just look at the size of his new market: Schools, private tutoring – Eddy could nearly feel the warm sand under his feet. Soon he would take his family to Jamaica on a dream vacation, pay off the mortgages and buy an extra car for his wife. Eddy grinned when he imagined the bright smile on his wife's face, her hair softly blowing in the wind. They'd sit at a bar, look at the beach and watch the blue, glittering sea. And they'll enjoy a perfect margarita. You know that special margarita with that bit of tanginess that makes you pucker, just the right amount of lemony taste and lots of alcohol.

He was, as they say, “pumped to the bone,” eager to learn and very optimistic. Yes, nearly ecstatic.

His boss liked him; he got along with his colleagues well (besides that one backstabber. Oh, well.) He even had an assistant that took away the burden of administrative tasks that used to make him frown.

Eddy had no sympathy whatsoever for his colleagues who did not make their numbers. He saw them sitting in the office, drinking coffee, whining and complaining. No wonder they were not doing well. When did whining ever help win a new client? Eddy knew he would not make the same mistakes.

On the day his new company told him he would not attend one but two training classes, he knew he was on the path to greatness.

Eddy's first training

Eddy took part in the first training. Never in his life had he experienced something like that. The motivational speaker was an incredible human being. He could see that the eyes of the other attendees were wide open. And they carried that special ecstatic glance. Everyone was smiling and on their feet. No wonder that everyone was chanting “YES!”, when the trainer screamed: “Will you bring it?”.

The coach gave him confidence. He could feel the power spreading in his body from his toes to the ends of his hair.

Eddy felt like the luckiest man on earth.

He went back to his office and showed the old dogs how a high bark sounds. He did not close one or two, but five deals in the first week on the job. I wonder why he was not the most famous dog among the other dogs at that time.

It was the last week of August and leaves were falling from the trees when it was time for Eddy to pack his suitcase once again.

Eddy's second training

This time, Eddy was about to learn some sales tricks. The perfect method that allows him to turn most of his prospects into buyers. They did role plays, and Eddy did well. The method worked so perfectly that Eddy nearly took his black pen to sign the fictional contract they used in the group task.

He trained and memorized the method, after all, repetition is the mother of learning. Eddy knew that, and he was a hard worker and serious student.

A perfect beginning

What can go wrong when motivation, sales technique, powerful will, and confident expectations come together? Not much, right?

The first weeks went very well for Eddy. Well, besides that one day when he found a long scratch on his car. Someone must have taken a key and scratched it from bumper to bumper. He knew it must have been that jealous backstabber. Eddy sold more in his first month than the backstabber sold in the past year.

90% of Eddy's sales have been upgrades to existing clients. He found out that many have literally been waiting for him. None of the old dogs ever bothered to call them and offer the upgrade that had many extra features, security updates, and a better user interface. “How lame,” Eddy thought. “What are they even doing in sales?”.

It was October already, and the days were getting shorter when Eddy was done calling the list of existing clients. There were no more left.

He looked forward to finding new buyers. He was not afraid to pick up the phone and call so that his calendar filled with appointments fast.

The struggle

He went on with his appointments and before each meeting; he looked at his cheat-sheet. He wanted to make sure he did not miss a step of the proven method that helps to close deals.

Eddy went to his first meeting. He told the client about his successes as a new salesperson for company XYZ. He presented the best-in-class features of his software. I know what you will say: “Sell a solution, not a problem.”

As if Eddy didn't know that! Eddy translated features into benefits, like the god of marketing.

After his presentation, he asked qualifying questions, just as he had learned. At least, he tried to.

But the buyer team (they were three) asked question after question. The questions were technical. Soon, Eddy felt like someone had pressed him against a wall.

Eddy answered each question to the best of his IT-knowledge. But they did not stop asking. They never stopped. You could say they grilled him. While pressed against a cold wall made of gray stone, Eddy felt the heat of the grill and humiliation making his face sweaty. Pearls of sweat started running down his face.

Eddy did not have a chance even to get started with his method. If they'd only had let him, he would have closed.

He lost the deal. But it was not his fault. You see, the buyer purchased from a competitor that offered an open interface – something Eddy's product was missing.

Well, that happens to the best, and part of sales is dealing with rejection. Sadly for Eddy, his next meetings did not go that well either. He felt sad some days; it felt as if a weight on his shoulders was weighing him down. Eddy is not one to give up easily. He pulled himself back together.

These days, he hardly closed anything. His commission checks became smaller and by December Eddy was sitting in the office with the old dogs.

Now he understood that they were not whiners. They were complaining about all the missing features that cost him deals too. Some companies he pitched his solution to did not even buy from the competition. They did not buy at all. How would that be his fault?

Other prospects interrupted him when he did his “thing” and it just did not work like when they role-played it. Eddy's other problem was that his company was too expensive. No wonder that buyers often chose his competition, after all, they offered at a lower price.

Maybe it was because it was meanwhile winter. The streets looked unfriendly, and the days were short. Everything just looked dark and depressing. And the wife was complaining too. Didn't Eddy promise her that sporty purple car? The snow and the slippery roads made getting to appointments a hassle. Eddy was nearly glad he did not have many appointments.

Eddy became depressed. He looked for a new job, for he knew all too well what happens to salespeople that miss their quota one time too much.

Eddy fell into a deep black hole. Eddy was now one of the “old dogs”.

What went wrong?

Motivation does not last

The first factor is that motivation does not last. Motivation is an excellent and powerful engine that can help you get started. When the initial motivation fades, discipline and habits carry you onwards.

The motivation engine can be re-fueled by success.

Other than in this example, in high-priced consulting-intensive projects, the sales cycle is typically much longer than initial motivation lasts.

Therefore, the best training for a salesperson is the kind that allows the seller to form success-building habits.

The next chapter is black or white. Things are not just black or just white. To make my point, I'll stick to all black. Moreover, it's my favorite color. (Don't say black is not a color.)

Sales method

Salespeople are typically dealing with over one industry. In that industry or industries, they meet people from different professions. Each with in-depth expert knowledge on their particular area. In the example used in this story that might be HR Manager, Purchase Manager, CEO's, IT people, Controller … in smaller companies potentially every manager. Plus experts from different divisions that influence the buying decision. They can't sign the contract – but they sure can kick you out of the door.

It is hardly possible for a salesperson to learn everything about

  • all industry specifics per each role plus
  • every technical detail of your product in every possible customer-specific environment

There are excellent reasons to separate sales from technical questions (for instance: Who will be they hold accountable when something goes wrong (as it always does) – but that's a topic for a separate article).

A salesperson does not have to write code to sell a piece of software. They cannot know everything a Board Member of a leading financial institution knows about the banking and the Risk Manager, Controller, IT Manager …

What salespeople need to know is how to listen. And how to form a connection with a buyer and earn their trust. If someone trusts you, they can help you win a deal. If they do not trust you, you cannot win by even the most superior knowledge.

“Solution” or features. Great salespeople establish a connection and learn about the buyer's story, vision, and needs before they offer anything. How do we even know the buyer has a problem when we just entered a room?

People buy from people they trust. And they share their visions with people they feel connected.

A sagacious man, Dr. Mike Bradbury, told me in the very early stage of my time in sales (when we were discussing my lack of technical skills):

"Hell knows what I am going to sell tomorrow."

Dr. Mike Bradbury, London, wonderful person and Management Consultant

Mike's play a significant role in my life, so it seems. The CEO that “promoted” me to Senior Account Manager's name was Mike, Dr. Mike Bradbury was my first supporter, Mike Bosworth my first sales teacher and Mike M (redacted) my first relationship that lasted over ten years.

But back to Eddy, the new dog that has become an old dog.

The charming Lady

While on his job hunt, Eddy came across an article of a lovely Lady. She was so supportive, friendly, and he loved her very style. The article was about how storytelling helps millennials to score the jobs of their dreams. And there was an audio file attached, a radio interview with a trainer, author, and keynote speaker named Mike Bosworth. What Mike said made sense.

But Eddy was tired. So tired. How much sales training did he attend throughout his sales career? They never had more than a short-term impact. If any.

For some reason, he followed the link in the article, and he read about “Project Empathy.” Project Empathy is an influence training with the world's leading expert in deep listening and radical empathy, Dr Mark Goulston and sales and leadership trainer Dennis Connelly. He picked up the phone and called.

It sounded like a sales training that is not a sales training. Empathy, soft skills, trust, connection, listening, social competence were some words that stuck out. Eddy is, was always, and will always be a confident person. He thought this approach sounded weird and different, but might be the answer to his problems.

Eddy learned that they offered digital training too. After a short but temperamental fight with his wife, he paid for the class out of his pocket.

Eddy became a first-class noticer. He became influential. Because of his fantastic attitude and skills, he soon became a proud and successful salesperson again. He did not win every deal, but he wins many and his customer retention rate is through the roof.

He does not tell people about his successes anymore when he enters a meeting. Not only that, but he briefly tells them a story about who he is and whom he represents.

You see, people make emotional decisions for rational reasons. They decide and then look for rational arguments that back up their decision. But emotions depend on temperament.

A person with a powerful need for security has a different decision-making process than a person with a strong urge to win. Most sales training covers only two types of people. The hustler and the politician. Actually, often hustlers make sales training for other hustlers for who hustle people with often incompatible temperaments until they back off even when they would need your product.

Eddy has learned to listen for where someone is coming from. That is why he now gets through to everyone, not just the hustlers. Since he dropped his manipulative pushy methods, he sounds authentic.

Eddy was a great salesperson all along. Just, he did not receive the proper framework that allowed him to shine as = brightly as the star he is.

Would you like to learn how we helped Eddy to increase influence and get through to everyone?

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