Personal Selling Reborn
By: Gerald J. Sherman
Have you noticed the rebirth of personal selling? Just read the newspapers, view TV and listen to the talk shows. Watch the presidential debates and you will see personal selling in action. The winner is the one who can best successfully communicate their ideas on benefiting their listeners. What are they doing? They are selling themselves! Observe President Obama touring our country and delivering his message. He is selling! Review the actions of past presidents selling Congress and the American people on their policies.
With the advent of the Internet and the social media, many of us have discounted the importance of personal selling. However, you will find that the ability to personally communicate ideas is still playing a vital role in the future of our country. In our book, The Real World Guide to Selling & Management, (2007), my co-author and I came up with the slogan that, “Selling is not a dirty word.”™ It is rather a process of delivering mutual benefits. It important to understand what makes a person engaged in this process successful.
Not every person is cut out to be a successful salesperson. Some people simply do not have the right combination of character traits and behavior patterns, without which a career in sales would pose only frustrations, anxiety, and a lack of fulfillment. However, for those with the right chemistry, the opportunities for job satisfaction and personal growth in sales are unlimited.
To be successful, a person must possess, or be able to adopt, a set of characteristics and behavioral patterns which are essential. Many of these characteristics may be cultivated and refined by conscientious application in on-the-job training. Even a topnotch salesperson or manager is constantly perfecting her or his technique, evaluating their performance, and ascertaining the client’s needs and wants.
In my experience I have found that successful salespeople have a combination of the following:
Empathy – Do you find yourself adjusting to another person’s moods and behavior, modifying your own position to accommodate another viewpoint? Or, do you find it difficult to anticipate another person’s actions or to accept an opinion which is in conflict with your own?
We define empathy as “listening to another person attentively and understanding their thoughts, emotions and feelings, and adjusting your own moods and behavior accordingly,” (Sherman&Hertz). It is not to be misconstrued as sympathy. If the salesperson can elicit the needs of the customer on both a business and personal level, she or he can deal with those needs realistically. Empathy is one of the most important keys to successful selling.
Ego drive — When a client turns you down do you feel angered, dismiss the failure with a shrug of the shoulder or are you driven to overcome the obstacles to your success? A professional salesperson is success driven – in a controlled way. She or he bounces back quickly from the failure and looks forward to the next sales presentation as an opportunity to restore self confidence to make up for the past shortcomings. We can say that ego drive pushes the salesperson for constant achievement and self-fulfillment. Much like the champion tennis player who is badly beaten in the first set, and bounces back in the next two to win the match.
Integrity — Integrity carries a very special meaning in the business world. It defines one’s character and reputation in the marketplace, forms the backbone of that person’s credibility, and is a major factor in gaining the trust and admiration of all who you work with. Integrity in the business world is simply, describing things as they are and making commitments stand. What you say is what you do. You are judged on your accomplishments and whether you live up to your promises.
Creativity — Although it doesn’t seem like a trait that would make for an effective salesperson, it is important because it develops your own style of selling.
Do you do things in an unquestioning manner accepting a course of action because, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Or, do you perceive the way a situation is being handled, then ask yourself, “How can I do it better?”
Emotional maturity — The buying and selling process is an emotional one. Do you get carried away with your emotions under stress or in the throes of a difficult decision or are you able to accept strain and conflict as a normal part of your working day? Clients are frequently and understandably insecure about making their decisions. When a client says something that annoys you, don’t take it personally. Internalizing and reacting to negative comments is a sign of immaturity and there is no room for this in the sales arena. Sellers do not have the luxury of overreacting.
Appraise yourself by rereading the above characteristics and then ask yourself:
• What are my personal strengths?
• Where am I deficient?
• How can I improve myself?
Excerpts from the book, WOMANPOWER IN TEXTILE & APPAREL SALES and The Real World Guide to Fashion Selling & Management, Gerald J. Sherman & Eric Hertz, Fairchild Books, Division of Conde Nast, N.Y.