When we are young we are who we are. We aren’t worried about whether someone thinks we are smart or talented or anything else, we just are. As we grow up, parents, teachers and others tell us how to behave. We are compared to other children. “Your brother doesn’t throw tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants”, or “Bill is so funny, you should be more like Billy” is what we are told. And the message we hear is ‘you aren’t good enough’. Probably it isn’t what is meant, but as children it’s what we hear.
Fast forward into adulthood. What is it that employers look for when hiring? Where did you go to college, what jobs have you held with what companies, have you been promoted…all indications of what they can expect of you. Frankly, there are a lot of assumptions made about who you are just from these few facts, and it isn’t necessarily an indication of who you really are.
In all situations in life, it’s important to be yourself, be authentic. Not someone who others want you to be. Not someone you think you should be, but genuinely and authentically who you are. And in sales this is critically important, because what you are selling is first and foremost you, and then your product or service. More on this in a minute.
There are many selling skills to learn to be successful, but being yourself is the easiest. Being yourself means just that…don’t try to be serious if you aren’t. If you are someone who makes decisions after reviewing lots of facts and data, don’t try to be someone who all of a sudden jumps into the deep end of the pool without worrying if they can swim. Maybe you are the type of person who is methodical and systematic about how you approach your work. You can easily work on something, put it aside and come back to it later and pick up where you left off. Don’t try to be someone who seeks change and are fast paced. Is your natural tendency to be quiet and more reserved? You aren’t the first one to speak up at meetings or share your ideas. Are you the type of person who does best with structure, process and procedures? Or do you prefer to ‘wing it’ knowing you can figure it out if things go off course?
Frankly, it’s stressful to try to be different than you naturally are. Whether you realize it or not, it requires you to be actively trying to be the person you think you should be. That is, requiring you mind and body, which drains your energy. You can’t perform at your best when your energy is drained. And you can’t keep it up long term…being someone that is not who you are naturally.
Recently I was talking to a client. He related about a presentation he recently did for his company at an all hands meeting. The client told me he was prepared and organized and felt the presentation went well. He’s typically fun and he loves connecting with people and yet the feedback he received was he was too serious and not himself. This was especially true because everyone there knew him personally so they saw a different person giving the presentation than the one they knew (and loved). He came across as not authentic, which in turn made people not feel connected to him. He missed the first and easiest selling skill to learn…just be yourself.
As I said earlier, being authentic is important regardless of what role you have in an organization. However, if you are in sales it isn’t just important, it’s vital for your success. Regardless of what product or service you have, people buy from you because of you. There is always competition for whatever you are selling and it’s a known fact that price isn’t the consideration in buying decisions, unless there is no perceived value difference. You, as the sales person, can and often are part of the perceived value difference.
one time you show up as a professional and starchy, the next time you are fun loving and down to earth. If customers don’t know who you are, because you aren’t authentic, it makes them wary. When they feel uncertain about who you are it translates to mistrust or at the very least they are guarded in their interactions with you. Guardedness means they don’t share some important facts or information that will help you move the sales process along.
I’m not suggesting this means they stop and think, “hmmmm…John seems different today so I’m not sure about him”, it’s a feeling they get, a reaction, a sense that something is different and at some unconscious level they hesitate. Trust comes from consistency. Doing what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it, being consistent in your actions and behaviors…people knowing what to expect of you builds trust. In sales this trust about you transfers to trust about your product or service. The more they trust you, the more they will share about their situation and concerns, which in turn allows you to offer solutions through your product or service. It’s the proverbial domino effect.
The truth is that it’s hard to maintain not being yourself. It’s demanding and stressful and will drain your energy. It simply isn’t sustainable to be anything but yourself over the long haul. And here’s the reality…people buy from people. Yes, they may want or need your product or service, but there is always competition for what you are offering. As I said earlier, you the sales person are part of the perceived value difference as to why they will buy from you.
Bring yourself to the sales process. It’s what facilitates the sale and it’s going to be a lot more fun for you in the long haul.
Learn how the skills you use every day are really sales skills. Check out Selling Reinvented and discover what those skills are and how you can put them into action today!