Where to draw the line.

That’s a good question…..

When training a sales team from Samsung recently, I was asked a question which prompted a lot of thought and soul searching.  I was able to answer it, but was the answer just too easy? 

The question?   Where does an ethical sales person ‘draw the line’?

The answer is simple, and quite straight forward: ‘wherever your conscience lets you draw the line’.  This is obvious, clear and fits all.  However, is it a helpful answer?

The example given by the team member was of a potential customer who used their own ‘pressure buying’ techniques that quickly strayed into bullying; the Genghis Kahn school of negotiation.  Apparently, the buyer would throw his pen onto the table and demand loudly that they accept his terms or get out.  Other tactics of similar aggressive and intimidating nature were used.  Unfortunately, the team member, while an experienced sales person, was not able to walk out on the negotiations as he had been instructed to pursue the business and to win it.  Would YOU sit there and take that abuse?

He had my sympathy.  Most experienced sales people have had situations of similar severe discomfort.  While the buyer rants, raves and threatens, you are sat there wrestling with your own conscience and professionalism. What are your options?

There are many as every situation is different and requires some ‘thinking-on-your-feet’.

Below I describe the two extremes and an ideal. 

1/  Fight back?  This is the most satisfying.  Potentially it can gain respect from the buyer and a mutually beneficial solution could be possible.  However, it is extremely risky, as it may escalate the emotions and temper to the point where errors are made, opportunities are lost, and things are said that should never be said by true professionals.  Are you reducing your own standards by lowering yourself to their position?

2/  ‘Take it on the chin’; in other words, sit there and use silence or passive resistance as your main tool of defense.  This is a very professional approach that will make the buyers behavior seem very childish and clearly bullying in comparison.  However, there is also the risk that they will then take your reluctance to engage in a fight as weakness and assume their argument has been won.

3/  A carefully judged balance between the two, whereby you respond to aggressive posturing with a firm insistence and repeated ‘no’.  Your volume would be higher than usual but less than theirs; maintain eye-contact as much as possible; your words would again be professional, but your manner should show you standing firm but being fair.  Consistency, professionalism, repetition and firmness are needed, with a clear message that you will not be intimidated.

The salesman was strong and held his ground as best he could.  Give-in to a bully and they will always bully you.  If you cannot work with them, and you have the authority, you can walk away, but do not let them win.

Yes, it is up to you and your conscience.  Sometimes it may be a balance between needs and conscience.  Apply your own positive, firm approach but do your best not give in to intimidation. When you can, retain the moral ‘high ground’ and give little away.  No-one likes a bully, and it is a great shame that some believe this is the way to behave in modern society.  However, one cannot deny that they still exist, and we must deal with them while achieving our objectives AND remaining professional.

What politicians could learn from Ethical Selling …and what we can learn from the politicians’ mistakes

 

Thursday 23rd June 2016 was a landmark day for many reasons.  The outcome of the referendum surprised a lot of people and delighted others.  But, why am I blogging about the referendum of all things?   One word: INTEGRITY!  As many of you will know, I fly the flag for honesty, openness and integrity in business and particularly in sales.

Sales and selling has long suffered a bad press due to the involvement of those with little or no integrity; those who firmly believe the end-justifies-the-means and the means can be anything at all to win the business.

There’s the parallel.  The press is now talking about the ‘fallout’.  Now we hear that key arguments and figures were in fact a ‘mistake’.  We have now heard that ‘immediate emergency measures’, means ‘we’ll have to look at it in a few months-time when the dust is settled, as we need stability’.

AND THEY WONDER WHY WE DON’T TEND TO TRUST OR RESPECT POLITICIANS AS MUCH AS THEY WOULD LIKE US TO!

If a certain PM, a particular UKIP leader and a well-known chancellor had done things differently; perhaps they could have kept their integrity AND continued to influence people ethically and positively!  They would have remained respected, believed and would still be able to influence.

The Salient Points:

  1. Politicians need to be good at sales and selling. They are in a position of influence and the people expect to be led and advised with honesty and integrity.
  1. NEVER ASSUME what people want, or the outcome of an initiative. Making assumptions as to what people think, expect, want or need is a recipe for disaster. Identify and clarify the need, what is really the issue, then aim to fulfil that need.  Assuming everyone, or at least a majority are going to agree with you is never a good idea.
  1. If you seek to influence and persuade your customers, or in this case ‘the electorate’, it’s always a good idea to provide accurate facts and reasoned argument.
  1. If you have competition, do not make it personal! YOUR ARGUMENT SHOULD NOT BE LACED WITH PERSONAL ATTACKS ON THOSE WHO OPPOSE YOU!  Sell it on its merits.
  1. If there is any possibility that you may lose the argument, after all there is always ‘the unforeseen’, have a CONTINGENCY PLAN, which helps you to carry on, but perhaps in a slightly different direction. (‘Damage Limitation’)
  1. If you want to remain a supplier to your customers (or ‘in office’), then the following applies:

Be clear and consistent in what you say, giving enough facts to allow an educated decision to be made by your customers (‘the people’).  This wasn’t done well in the referendum.

These facts and arguments must not be exaggerated, or untruthful, because, surprise-surprise, truth will out, particularly in the fall-out after the event.  This happened on both sides.

Customers (the public) will see this disparity between what you promised and what you deliver as a clear manipulation of the process to achieve the sellers’ (politicians’) own ends. They are MUCH less likely to buy from (vote for) them againThe PM is going; others will likely follow.

A customer who is given all the facts they need in order to make an educated and reasoned choice, and these facts are given accurately, without exaggeration, fabrication or vagueness of interpretation, will be happy to deal with you again.  IF the final answer is ‘NO thanks’, they are still likely to return and engage with you again.  Customer retention and loyalty is only possible if you maintain this integrity.

If you are proved to be false or manipulative, then you should not be at all surprised if the customer then goes elsewhere.  That’s politics as we know it!

As it should be in SALES and in POLITICS, it is down to motive, intent and conscience. I aim to sleep well every night.  Do you?

Move your own goal-posts.

Do you really want it?

Lots of money; holidays; cars; clothes; lifestyles…..?

Do you really want it, or do you just want the end result, the reward?   Do you want the omelette but are not prepared to break a few eggs and spend time whisking?

Everything of value to you has to be fought for.  A struggle is often needed to move forward.  This could entail time; working all hours, repetition; over and over again until you get it right; changes to relationships; being with patient people who share your dreams, and so on.  Whatever you do requires effort.  How much do you want that dream, that wonderful end result that will make you happy?  Are you prepared to struggle to achieve it, to work through the process time and again and again until the outcome is secure?

I meet many people who claim to have a dream, a goal, an objective, but have not yet asked themselves these questions.  In fact, too many have not even made a plan or mapped out the route they would need to take to get to where they want to go. (Have you?)

Here’s an example (names and figures have been made up to protect the guilty):

John wants to be successful   –  how successful John?

John’s dream is to achieve a turnover of £100,000 in 5 years  –  where are you now John?

So, John needs to find and win £85,000 of new business within 5 years – really?!

That is as far as John gets with his dream.

John’s approach is to keep doing what he is doing to make the business grow.*  He believes that “opportunities will arise along the way which will boost the business”.

Hands up who is surprised when, in 5 year’s time, John is turning over £32,000, and most of that is from a couple of clients who are personal friends.  John’s expansion plans are on hold.

Did John achieve his dream, his goal?  No.  Why not?  Probably because he chose a goal without considering the process, the effort, the struggle that would be needed to set his sights that high.

Every dream has a cost.  That cost includes the time and effort, the loss of focus elsewhere, the reduction of short-term-gain in favour of long term benefit.  Likely there will be disappointment, fatigue, despondency, even despair in yourself, and possibly those close to you.  Is it worth this struggle, or is it likely to damage other things you value more; your family, friends, principles, standards, enjoyment?

If you have considered all this and it is worth it, then go for it!  Or, as I read on Facebook last year: ‘Don’t downgrade your dream to match your reality, upgrade your faith to match your destiny’!

However, if the process, the struggle, the ‘pain’ proves too high a cost; lower your sites.  You can still win, and enjoy the journey.

* Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.