While the modern sales force is filled with smart and ethical professionals, an unfortunate negative perception still exists about the occupation. In addition to countless representations of greedy, pushy salespeople popularized in movies, we have all encountered the stereotype of the “typical salesperson,” focused solely on the short-term gain of a single sale. Along with the annoyance factor, this negative impression can make it harder for sales professionals to establish themselves as trusted advisors. Here are a few tips for sales pros to overcome negative impressions of our craft:
Put the Customer First
With the prevalence of such a negative stereotype, sales professionals should strive to be genuine, caring, and empathetic. Mostly, the negative impression comes from salespeople too focused on their own needs or achieving a sale at all costs. In contrast, put the customer and their long-term needs above your own short-term gains. The transparency of being customer oriented and listening more than you speak creates a level of trust that is the foundation of productive relationships.
Improve Active Listening
A characteristic of typical salespeople is only listening for an “in,” the proverbial “foot in the door,” until they can talk about themselves or their products. True professionals know the key to building trust is active listening. In addition to a customer’s words, note their body language, the unconscious tells that can reveal hidden concerns or deeper issues you can explore further.
Reframe Your Thinking
Salespeople should think in terms of how they can help clients versus how they can sell products. Doing so ensures you are focused on the true goal of solving problems and adding value. This creates a different language that shows customers you are putting them first and goes a long way to dispelling the negative impression of sales professionals.
Know Their Business
Being a trusted advisor is not just knowing the client but also knowing their business. This consultative approach to sales is the antithesis of the negative stereotype and it ensures you are doing your best for them. It allows sales pros to form the bonds necessary for long-term relationships. Let’s face it, clients want to work with those professionals who understand their real issues, add value, and can help them.
While villain characters are often more interesting than heroes, it is not a surprise that the negative perception of salespeople still exists. It can present a challenge for sales professionals who must guard against being perceived as overly sales- and self-oriented. Most importantly, clients recognize and remember the smart, honest, and authentic salespeople who invest in their needs and are focused on helping them achieve their goals.