“A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.”
-Michael Eisner, CEO Disney
When I was a teenager, my mom held the job as the regional sales manager for Del Monte foods. I remember marveling at her confidence in her job. ‘Trying’ to sell to someone was something I always thought to be extremely uncomfortable. By that time, I’d done some retail work and no matter how often I was asked to approach the customer, I felt like such a nuisance. Have you ever felt this way?
My mom was good at her job. And she was regularly being rewarded for her performance, winning company accolades and sales incentive prizes. One day, I asked her how she did it; how she could walk into new places, introduce herself and SELL things to mere strangers.
She said, “Oh, it’s easy. You just sell them things you KNOW they need. You’re actually helping solve a problem for them.” Immediately, I felt a shift in the way I saw her job and a sales career. What brilliance! Of course this made sense…because we all buy stuff, right? And if we need it…
What I didn’t think about at the time is that occasionally, people are asked to sell the stuff that, well, people don’t necessarily need. Instead, they’re ‘nice to haves.’ And another thing I realized is that sometimes, even though people are selling things that people need, they simply aren’t good at selling.
In many ways, public relations can be very similar to sales as a career…this isn’t uncommon knowledge. But the similarities I’ve really started to notice in these bad sales experiences are the human nuances that are critical, but often ignored. Things like personal body language that glaringly says ‘I don’t believe in what I’m selling you,’ or ‘you could never afford this.’ Or, even sales representatives who don’t understand me, as their customer, and the signs I’m providing that say ‘I’m not interested.’
Elements I believe are the source of these kinds of ‘sales inaccuracies’ are things I consistently preach to my clients and they have to do with personal values, passion and people. If your personal values don’t align, or if you don’t have passion for what it is you’re selling, then you probably shouldn’t do it. Even if there are customers who need your product, but YOU wouldn’t buy what you’re selling, then you’re doing your company and yourself a huge disservice. Are you selling an eco-conscious brand, but don’t believe in recycling? Are you selling bikes, but don’t ever plan to own one?
This could mean you’re out of alignment with what you’re doing. Why is this important? Because sales, like PR, is ‘relating to your publics’ and if you are working in a job or career that isn’t in alignment with your personal values, people will sense it…and it could likely mean they won’t buy from you. As in every conversation, customers are watching for non-verbal cues to determine whether or not to trust the other individual. Primal instincts don’t disappear just because we’re at work. And although you may not TELL others you don’t own a bike, something about your energy will reveal a disconnect that will turn people off.
You might have a sales title, but really, your job is to make relationships…and this requires trust, authenticity and even some passion for making others’ lives better through your product or service. Truly believing in what you’re selling means you believe in the CAUSE. Ultimately, encouraging others to buy from you means you’d do no less for yourself and suddenly, it becomes about relating and not selling.
At this, Mom has always been a pro. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!