Seth Godin on Salespeople

In a previous post, I wrote about Seth Godin’s theory of team contributions. One contributor is the Salesperson. Here’s how Godin describes the work: “Turning a maybe into a yes, enrolling prospects in the long-term journey of value creation.”

Salespeople are arguably the most essential contributors, because they create the relationships that generate revenue. Nothing happens until somebody sells something. But for some reason, the sales function is perceived as a necessary evil; no one wants to have the reputation of a natural salesperson. In Daniel Pink’s book, To Sell is Human, he says that 9 out of 10 people have negative impressions of salespeople.

In my experience, there are two kinds of salespeople: the ones driven by winning, and the True Believers. The ones driven by winning can sell almost anything; they have a natural talent for persuasion and they are students of human nature, able to quickly analyze what motivates potential buyers. All they need is a pretty good product and enough information on features and benefits; you can set them loose in the market and they will close with gratifying regularity.

They love the challenge, and every close feels like a win. It’s fun for them, and they are often rewarded well for their skills (they’re also great negotiators.) They also move around a lot; they’re guns for hire who can walk into any company and demand top dollar.

The true believers are more rare, but often more effective. And they don’t necessarily limit themselves to products. They can be found in nonprofits, universities, politics, and movements. They’re often founders of companies with a burning vision and the ability to bring you into that vision.

Sales consultant and author Jeffrey Gitomer says: “As you’re preparing for a sale, your belief system is so powerful it will dominate your desire to get ready to win.”

Gitomer says a true believer mindset consists of three core beliefs:

  1. You have to believe you work for the greatest company in the world.
  2. You have to believe your products and services are the greatest in the world.
  3. You have to believe in yourself.

The challenge with True Believers as salespeople is that once they lose their belief, they lose their power to persuade. A discouraged True Believer cannot be effective, and can’t be motivated extrinsically. They don’t care about winning; they care about helping people or solving problems that matter. If you’re managing a True Believer sales force, you’ve got to keep a constant eye on quality, morale, and culture. If one of these is not where it should be, you’ll need to fix it before your sales team will be able to perform.

If you’re in sales, are you driven by winning? Or are you a True Believer?

Or are you a Contributor?


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