In June, I wrote a lengthy article about common mistakes that sellers make. Hopefully it was received with the friendly spirit it was intended. That article, however, does not tell the whole story. There are plenty of salespeople who are doing things well. They are establishing great relationships with the planning community and creating real value for clients. This article will address what many salespeople are doing right.
Over the course of a career, buyers might deal with sellers more often than they speak with their clients. While account managers are working with clients, we are interfacing with sellers. Naturally, we establish relationships with these salespeople. Sometimes it can become a truly good personal relationship that transcends business. Heck, some buyers even marry their favorite sales reps.
Looking back many years ago to my time in TV media buying, I recall an important learning experience. After a particularly dismal network presentation, my UPN sales rep counseled me not to buy something. He was quite candid that I should steer away from "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer," possibly the first TV sitcom about the Civil War. The show was such a disaster that years later, when I met the sitcom's star, even he did not want to talk about it. The UPN salesman candidly said, "You will lose all respect for me if I try to sell you this show." This was the right thing for him to do. First, indeed it was a terrible show that was soon cancelled. Second, this conversation actually strengthened our relationship. It certainly made him a more reliable sales vendor. Until that time, I never understood how honesty was a foundational element in the sales process.
In grade school, our parents tell us that honesty is the best policy. As with so many other things we learned in kindergarten (thanks Mrs. Siegfried!), this remains sage advice. In order to conduct business, people must trust one another. Trust or, at a deeper level, honesty allows people to exchange money for goods or services. Without the expectation of delivering a promise, buyers would never put their money on the table. I am not preaching brutal, unnerving honesty like in a Jim Carey movie. However, I do think that building trust through honesty improves a business relationship.
Great sales reps hold themselves accountable for the good, the bad, and the ugly. They don't just take credit for successful efforts, but they also help clean up after failures too. If a schedule has done poorly, they state the obvious, "Yes, that schedule did not deliver like we hoped." This makes me want to do business with that person again. Honesty builds trust if not compassion. No one likes admitting his or her mistakes, but doing so actually moves a relationship forward.