Love it or hate it my headline on LinkedIn reads ‘Customer Happiness Manager’. To me it’s a simple description of what I do. But considering the amount of feedback I get on it perhaps it’s not so obvious.
I’m in sales so what more would I want than happy customers? I could have a statement about increasing my customers probability of success or how amazing I am at winning business, but when it comes down to it – all I want is a happy customer. Sorry I seem to keep repeating myself!
If they’re happy then it must be a win-win situation for us both. It’s not about making a sale or a customer feeling it’s ‘just’ another transaction, it’s about creating happy customers that return time after time.
“If you just think about what makes customers and employees happy, in today’s world that ends up being good for business.” Tony Hseih, Founder Zappos.com
I was first approached about a sales job back in the summer of 2001. I’d been in retail sales before I went to university – as always I did things a little backwards and worked full-time for 5 years before doing a degree – but selling T-shirts and cuddly toys is a little different to selling services as I do now. Well, let’s be honest, in real terms I sell people these days.
To say I was skeptical about moving in to sales would probably be an understatement. Even after a day long interview – my soon to be CEO and I were ahead of our time with a walking meeting that took us all over London – I still wasn’t convinced. Even if he did think that my experience selling those T-shirts and cuddly toys was a transferable skill to the pharma industry!
We all generalize and create stereotypes in our minds. Sometimes they’re useful, sometimes not so much. Add those to the deletions and distortions we all inflict on the data streaming into our minds every second and you can end up with some fairly interesting pictures.
So what jumped into my mind when I though of sales? Sleazy guys with slicked back hair. Shiny shoes and those ever so 80’s white socks. Del-boy Trotter from Only Fools and Horses. Market traders selling dodgy goods off the back of a lorry. Hypnotists trying to manipulate you into buy something you would never ever need and probably can’t afford. Lots of smoke and mirrors. Perhaps a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Uncaring. Out for themselves. Unreliable. Definitely untrustworthy. Just out to make a quick buck. There to make the deal and then disappear never to be seen again.
Then again getting involved with NLP seems to have brought me full circle back to a strangely similar collection of stereotypes and preconceptions!
It took me a long time to really accept I didn’t have to fit into a stereotype. I could just be me.
So looking over the horizon what do I believe a sales person should be? What is my vision? What am I striving to achieve?
A sales person should be like a personal shopper.
They should offer a friendly, professional, courteous welcome. No ifs. No buts.
They should be amazing at not talking. Yep, I really did say not talking. They should know when to shut up. And be able to turn off the running dialogue in their heads. Instead they should LISTEN carefully to hear what the customer wants and desires. They should listen more than they talk.
When you walk into a garage to buy a new car and tell the salesperson that you want a car with a big boot (aka trunk), as you have four kids, do you want to be shown a sporty hatchback?
They should be the ultimate customer-centric person in the company. They should make it easy for the customer to buy. Find the right fit. And be 100% committed to serving the best interests of their customer.
A sales person should be an expert.
They want to teach and challenge the customer. They should be able to predict objections and deal with them before they are even raised. They should be able to translate the customers wants and desires into needs.
They’re expert communicators and always striving to learn more.
They should be expert enough, yet know when to bring in the big guns. They should offer solutions and be able to explain the benefits to the customer without falling back on the twiddly features.
They’re like a head chef, bringing all of the ingredients together. Perhaps you could liken it to baking bread – they need to create the environment for it to rise successfully. They need to add value.
A sales person should act as a concierge.
When a customer comes to them with a request, a problem, a question, whatever. They must take ownership. They must make sure that customer gets their answer or what they need as quickly as reasonably possible.
Nothing is ever too much trouble. They’re all about treating everyone as courteously, and with as much common sense, as they would a member of their family.
They must be the ultimate facilitator and networker, both inside and out. Making connections for the customer. In these times of large, complex, global companies this becomes more and more critical (and challenging to do) every day.
A sales person must be an evangelist.
They need to stand up for what they believe in. Hopefully that goes for their company. They need to have a positive, happy attitude and have pride in what they do. They need to exhibit passion and enthusiasm – like any strong emotion passion is contagious. And they know it.
They need to be able to get the whole team singing from the same hymn sheet. They need to rock their clients world and be on a mission not just to deliver, but to ‘wow’.
They need to engage the client and, dare I say it, even have fun. Fun is only a problem when you’re not having it. They need to create their own unique identity. No stereotypes required.
They know that however great the presentation, how fantastic the call or amazing the meeting you can only guarantee that the customer will remember one thing – the feeling they’re left with.
A sales person needs to be THE best customer advocate.
They’re the customers man on the inside. They’re the voice of the customer. They’re flying the flag for the customer.
They’re the ones that know the customer best and they’re not afraid to stand up and say it. They’ve spent time understanding their customers model of the world so they can communicate effortlessly.
A sales person should act as a consultant.
It’s about collaboration. It’s about consultation. It’s about mutual respect. It’s not just about meeting your customers wants. It’s about successfully meeting their real needs (and sometimes educating them on what they actually are).
They empathize with the customer. They strive to become their Trusted Advisor. They build relationships and take every opportunity to build deeper, more lasting relationships with their customers to better understand them and their needs. They work hard to earn trust and to give advice effectively. They know when to push. And they know when to give their customer some space.
So those are my thoughts – what do you think? Did I miss anything? Are my hopes too high? Or would you as a customer prefer to go back to dealing with the sleazy market trader?