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Ways to Repair the Sales Rep’s Rep

Our culture often characterizes salespeople as pushy, lying, cheating—and those are some of the more flattering adjectives used to describe us! Our negative reputation has tarred and feathered us for decades. But, truth be told, it’s easy to feel conned after a trip to a used car lot, mattress store, appliance place, etc. And, sometimes you feel conned because you have been conned.

Night of the Living Sales People
The movies don’t help. Take, for example, Boiler Room (“…be aggressive; learn how to push!”), Glengarry Glen Ross (“Get them to sign on the line, which is dotted!”), or The Wolf of Wall Street (“The name of the game: Move the money from your client’s pocket into your pocket”). Even sensationalist local news reinforces negative perceptions of sales reps, mainly in the form of consumer reports. No matter where or how it comes to you, the message is always the same: Beware of salespeople—they’re out to cheat you!

Brave New Sales World
Yes, sadly, these days there’s still no shortage of foot-in-the-door, act-now-because-this-price-is-going-to-change-in-one-hour tactics. At the same time, the internet is a friend to the consumer, offering up a plethora of information and arming B2C as well as B2B customers with a bigger arsenal of data than ever before. Customers are shrewder these days. Their expectations are higher; more often than not they’ve done their homework before approaching the seller. And their savviness has indirectly impacted the role of the sales rep.

The change in buying behavior has required that sales reps—the smart ones, anyway—reinvent themselves to adapt to changing times, as opposed to functioning simply as an order-taker who may or may not provide a minimal level of guidance. Today’s enlightened sales rep is a trusted advisor whose role is counseling the customer on what’s good for them, educating the customer, providing insights and ideas and keeping the best interest of the customer at the top of their priority list.

For years now, Janek has been tracking sales and customer trends, and working to change attitudes and perceptions to align with the changing times. Which is why we train sales teams on the benefits of functioning as trusted advisors to their clients. Breaking down the old paradigms, we provide reps with the skills to take a consultative approach—so, not just filling orders, but filling needs.

Show Us a Different Way to the Money
Being client-focused only works when companies stop looking at clients with bulging, cartoon-like dollar-sign eyes and start embracing the human element inherent in all sales interactions. The selling environment of fill-in-the-blank company should be not so much quota-driven as purpose-driven—the purpose being relationship building and adding value to the sales process.

We’re not saying ignore profits. In fact, your profit-margin may increase with a sales-approach makeover. But the days of quick-buck turnarounds have come and gone. It’s simple: Today’s customers expect a certain level of sophistication from sales reps; they expect you to be a highly competent specialist in your field who can guide them through the ever-glutted world of available options and alternatives. They expect you to give them a shift in perspective. They presume that you’ll meet their needs, expose them to new and better ways to see their business, and keep them from stepping into steaming piles of the wrong move.

You say you want to live in a cliché-free zone as a sales rep, one where negative perceptions go ba-bye. The best way to do that is to bear in mind what makes a good sales rep, such as:

  • They speak less, and listen more: Don’t talk a good game—chances are, you’ll walk away with only the echo of the sound of your own voice.
  • They want to learn more, are open to feedback, take customer suggestions seriously: Know all you can about the customer and you’ll both go home happy.
  • They want to meet the customer where they are in the buying journey and help them advance from there. Not pull them back to meet their own process or agenda.
  • They don’t approach deals thinking, “I’ll do whatever I have to close this thing” and then find themselves engaged in unethical behavior: Check your sales tricks at the door.
  • They’re persistent but not pushy: When appropriate, yes, convey a sense of urgency to advance the sale, but do not clear the room with your odor of desperation.
  • They try to meet and exceed their aims, be that reaching their sales goals for the month or making themselves available to customers they closed last week: Know that customer relationships are ongoing, fluid things, not just “Fine, done, see ya!”
  • They want to build a strong reputation and look for long-term relationships: Again, sales should be an ongoing process, one in which you stick with your customers over time—checking in with them, following through with them, getting to know them and their needs as a trusted advisor.

In the meantime, if you want a good laugh seeing how it’s not done—make a batch of popcorn and watch the movie Tin Men, a comedy about guys who sell aluminum siding in the less-ethical sales days of the 1960s, spouting lines like “…you’ve got a mark; you’ve got this guy in your pocket!”