The stereotype many people have of salespeople is of an amoral hired gun. A sharp suited, sharp talking huckster who doesn't care what he's peddling as long as it brings in the money.
But in reality, the opposite is true of all truly successful salespeople: they have a real passion and belief in the products and services they sell. And this is even more true for professional services where the person doing the selling is usually the person who will deliver or oversee the service. After all, if you can't get passionate about what you do – how can you expect a client to do so.
In my 15 years as a consultant I've worked with and observed hundreds of business developers in action. I've seen very different selling styles and cultures, and helped salespeople from countries as diverse as Iran, the US, Lebanon, Algeria, Finland, Spain, Panama and Japan.
Yet across all these countries and cultures, the very best salespeople share a real passion in the quality of their products and services and a sincere belief that their customers will genuinely benefit from using them. And I've witnessed that passion overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to win a sale, or protect an account from an undercutting competitor.
We live in a cynical world today, with everyone's BS detector constantly set on max. And it doesn't matter how many body language or NLP courses you've been on; if you aren't being sincere – if you don't really believe in your products with a passion; then your customers will pick this up in an instant.
Winston Churchill said it best: “Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe”.
Churchill knew the power of passion and belief. And we saw the power of his belief in his great speeches which convinced and mobilised a nation at its time of greatest need.
How can we build this same level of passion in ourselves and in our professionals?
First, we need to make sure that the professionals we hire are capable of being passionate. Emotion is often frowned upon in business – and especially in the supposedly “rational” professions such as law and engineering. But without emotion – and the strength of character to express it; we cannot communicate our passion. We need to hire people able to maturely express their emotions. Not just to wear their heart on their sleeve; but to be able to convince with passion.
Next we need to make sure we incubate belief in our services amongst our professionals and business developers. Don't just train them in the technicalities of the service and in its features and benefits. Really show them what the service can do for our customers – what an impact it can have on their lives and their businesses. Use case studies and examples in training.
Better still, take the salespeople and professionals out to “spend a day in the life” of their customers – they will benefit immeasurably. And make sure they keep talking to customers over time about the impact of the work they do for them. Not just the cold, hard financial impact – but what they personally get from the service in their own words.
Finally, make sure your partners and managers “walk the talk” too – and really support the passion of your people.
All too often it's seen as “cool” to be ultra-hip and cynical. Yet this cynicism can kill the passion of the team. They'll become embarrassed to talk about how great they believe the service is to their peers.
They'll figure that maybe being cynical is the way to success in this organisation. And pretty soon they'll become the cynical, smooth operators that customers hate.