| August 10, 2021
I grew up on baseball fields and basketball courts, where there were no shortage of inspirational quotes and proverbs used to motivate young men like me. Looking back, most of my coaches were more practitioners than philosophers, but some of the things I heard from them have been with me all of my life.
Just this morning, I had occasion to consider the one about nice guys finishing last. I was asked to coach a failing salesperson. “He’s a really nice guy,” I was told, “but he hasn’t brought in any new business, even from the ‘old’ customers I assigned to him. We have to change that, quickly.”
Courage and Assertiveness
“OK, he’s nice,” I said, “but is he brave? Does he have courage?”
I’ve written before that it takes three kinds of courage to be successful at selling: courage of knowledge, courage for contact and courage to question.
Courage of knowledge is pretty straightforward. The more you know about what you sell, the more confident you’re likely to be in selling it. According to his manager, this salesperson could use some work on his product knowledge.
Courage for contact is all about the willingness to engage with customers and potential customers. To put it simply, it’s all about making the calls. According to the manager, this is not the problem. “He’s very outgoing, he’s good at networking, he makes lots of calls.”
Courage to question is all about the willingness to ask and use provocative questions to challenge the status quo. “Can I quote on your next order?” is not a provocative question, nor is “Would you like to save money on your printing?” Here are some examples of the kind of questions I’m talking about:
- What could go wrong with a project like this, and how bad would that hurt?
- Are you 100% happy with every one of your current suppliers?
- Do you feel like you can trust me to keep every promise I make to you?
Questions like this are the foundation of assertiveness, and assertiveness is all about positioning yourself as a buyer’s best choice — we are, here’s why and here’s how I back that up!
“Yeah,” the manager said, “he’s not good at that at all.”
A Winning Formula
I’m sure you see how courage and assertiveness go together. I hope you see that this individual — like most printing salespeople — has both strengths and weaknesses. Being nice is an asset, but it doesn’t stand alone. Being nice, with expert knowledge, plus courage and assertiveness, is a much better profile.
Now, let me make this clear, I’m not going to try to turn him into a salesjerk, one of those “push-push-push, close-or-die” people. I’m just hoping to turn him into a more brave and more assertive person.
The best salespeople are courageous and assertive.
Does that describe you?
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