I’d like to spend some time in today’s blog post talking about a subject that is particularly dear to my heart and that is SELF-ESTEEM. This particular subject is a real soapbox for me and I will explain why. As you know, as a regular reader of this blog, one of the key elements of the job that interests me is the reasons why some sales careers succeed and others go into decline. One of the key reasons that I find a sales career can sometimes slip by the wayside is a lack of self-esteem or gradual loss of self-esteem of the individual concerned.
Now what I’m not talking about here in terms of a loss of self-esteem is the deep-rooted psychological issue about feeling like I think “everybody is better than me”. It’s a little bit simpler than that. The self-esteem that I’m talking about from a sales perspective centres on a few different key criteria.
Firstly, it’s around how you allow yourself to look and sound and feel. Secondly, it’s about how the salesperson allows others to treat him and the behaviours of others that he does or doesn’t tolerate, particularly those from clients and our actions towards them as a salesperson.
So often we’re in the throes of winning a deal chasing a target towards the end of the year and it becomes very easy for a salesperson to allow a client to slight them in some very subtle way or another. It becomes easy to allow the client to speak to them whilst they are in the toilet! It becomes easy to allow the client to talk down to them and deep down they accept it because they say to themselves “well he’s a client, he is paying and I need the money. And hey, my wife and kids don’t care whether I like the client”. The matter, however, is far different. What actually happens every time we allow our client to say or do something that deep down we know is wrong is that a little piece of us as a sales professional dies. Every time we swap an insult or a cultural or professional slight for a bit of extra commission a little bit of us dies! Every time we fail to hold the personal self-image of “I am a world class business professional and you will deal with me as an equal and are as fortunate to be in my presence as I am to be in yours” a little piece of us dies!
I know some of you reading this right now and thinking “oh come on Jonathan that’s particularly melodramatic, but I truly believe I’m not being so let’s have a look at some of the very simple mathematics surrounding my theory. Firstly, let’s say were made of 100000 “pieces”. Let’s call them bits of “soul”. And with every condescending phone call and with every slight and every client meeting that the client was late for after which he didn’t apologise and every time a client decided he could use foul language whilst he spoke to you on the telephone and every time a client decided that rather than focusing on the conversation that he was having with you that he would nip out and just have a quick fag- every time we allow our client to do that several little chunks of us get knocked off and die!!!! Over the course of one day it’s not that difficult to lose one or two chunks like that as a salesperson and it doesn’t feel that bad. Let’s extrapolate that over a week and then a year and then a 30 years sales career and all of a sudden actually by the time we get to the back end of our career, which is when most people’s sales career suffer the most challenging periods we’ve actually lost a pretty significant chunk of ourselves. That chunk that has been chipped away is the bit that made us what we were. That chunk of ourselves that we lost is the difference between the slump and the swagger. That chunk of ourselves that we lost is the difference between staying strong letting the deal roll into the next quarter rather than weakening on price, and giving away valuable commission at quarter end just to survive. That chunk that we’ve lost is the difference between whether we recommend to our children that they have a career in sales or not. In fact a very strong indicator for me when interviewing is the extent to which somebody has over a period of time been gradually eroded away by the slights of the job. I often like to ask a candidate whether they’d be happy for their children to undertake a career in sales. If they say no, it’s because effectively they’ve lost their self-esteem in the job and the career and the profession itself. How can anything other than a loss of self-esteem within the identity of a sales person be the reason behind why you wouldn’t recommend to your children to have a career in sales. It’s because you don’t personally believe it has been a good career or a career that was worthwhile enjoyable and fulfilling and that’s usually because over a period of time the corrosive elements of the job have taken away the fun and the enjoyment.
Training new consultants, particularly when they’re working within our own business on learning the skills of bringing on board new clients I often say the job is a battle between land and sea. The sea will always try and erode the shoreline and the shoreline should always try and stand strong. Who’s going to win? – that really is the challenge for a young salesperson and it’s being aware of the fact that the sea is washing away at him that will invariably keep them strong in my opinion.
There are a number of particular pet slights that I believe people should be aware of and I will list them here and extrapolate upon each of them.
The client is eating whilst on the telephone to you. If a client is eating whilst on the telephone to you what he’s saying is “I don’t care if you hear me chewing down the phone. I don’t care if you hear me masticating and swallowing and salivating over this food. I don’t care what’s going on in your ear” The client doesn’t consciously think that this is out of order, after all he is just eating his sandwich, but in my opinion it’s the job of the salesperson to stay strong and say “hey Mr client you eat your sandwich, let’s talk at a time when we can talk properly”. The salesman who is on the brink of losing his self-esteem and is struggling for the quarter thinks “dammit, I really don’t want to have this conversation with this guy who is chewing down the phone at me” but he’s desperate and he thinks, “well I need the money and it won’t hurt and hey if I win this deal and I will have hit target” so inside a little piece of that salesman dies…
The client is late for your appointment. I personally have a client tardiness rule which is that any client who is over 15 minutes late for an appointment with me without informing me as to why by coming out personally and letting me know or sending an apologetic member of staff to inform me ensures that I will immediately leave the premises without any further discussion and no longer continue to engage with that client. I know you are probably thinking that I am an arrogant fool. I am not. I am as important as my clients are. I believe I am a world-class sales professional. I believe that my clients are actually lucky to be in the same room as me at times and that the advice and skill I can impart effectively bills out at a minimum of £1000 a day and more. If they can’t be bothered to be on time then I prefer not to engage with them because there are plenty of other clients who will and who want to work with a world-class professional. The moment any salesman allows the client to be late he has already set the path of the relationship to continue thereafter. The message has been given to the client and he has already lost several chunks of soul plus the others that the client is going to want to proactively take off him in order for him to secure that sale. The message is already out to the client “it’s okay for you to be late; it’s okay for you to beat me up when we negotiate; it’s okay for you to negotiate after the event; it’s okay for you to give my support team grief; it’s okay to give the implementation guys grief. The salesman has basically said to the client “You can do what you want to me to my company and to my colleagues”. A little bit of the salesman has died…..
The client is rude. If a client is rude to me. I simply do not accept it. I make it very clear that I don’t tolerate people who are rude, I wouldn’t let somebody, do it to me in the street therefore I wouldn’t let somebody in business. No matter how much money they had to spend; no matter how much commission it was worth. I know that some of you are saying “it’s easy for you to say Jonathan perhaps you are earning more money than you were, perhaps your career is going really well!” Actually the advice I often give to salespeople is that when things are at their toughest and things are at their worst is the time that you should focus the most on your self-esteem. Every time you allow clients be rude to you a little piece of you dies….
The customer or the client insists on being called “Mr”. Believe it or not in this modern day and age there are still some people who want to be referred to as “Mr or Mrs”. Prior to setting up inward revenue in my career I spent some time selling software into the legal sector and there are plenty of very senior level executives within large law firms who still insisted on being referred to as Mr Smith and Mr Jones. I simply refuse to do it. The moment you do so you have already changed the dynamic of your relationship with the client. You have already told them that it’s okay for them to be however they want with you. That you will compromise during a negotiation. You’re “nothing but a salesman” to them and they look down on salespeople. They think what you do is a lower form of human life and the moment that you allow them to do that you agree with them. What you do is not a lower form of human life. The reason I love doing what I do and the reason I love working within the IT sales arena is because actually I believe that I get to operate and work with the cream of Britain’s business community in so many different areas and I insist and implore you all to head this message that self-esteem is key. Every time you call a client “Mr or Mrs” a little piece of you dies.
The client wants you to call him on Saturday morning. This customer doesn’t respect you. He doesn’t respect your family and he doesn’t respect your time. He simply doesn’t respect you and any client that insists on you doing business with him outside of working hours beyond a reasonable point doesn’t have respect. Now actually you have to look at yourself. Have you engendered a culture like this in the way that you do business and have you already allowed enough chunks of yourself to already be eaten away at the point of which you allowed your relationship with any particular client of this nature to insist upon meeting you outside of working hours on a Saturday or Sunday? If you have then you need to address it really quickly. Secondly, you are unlikely to win the business anyway. Every time you leave your family and get in your car to meet the customer outside working hours at the weekend a little piece of you dies.
The client is in the pub and just a tiny bit drunk. The client picks up the phone because he is playing “Billy big shot” in front of his friends in the pub. He then proceeds to bark orders at you from the pub over the telephone. Every time you allow yourself to operate and work with a client a couple of beers into a session a little piece of you dies. So what do you do about it?
Firstly the aware of it. Be aware that it’s the sea vs. the land and it’s a battle to see how much the sea can claim and the land can keep. So often I will meet salespeople and candidates who are in a difficult place in their career and they often remind me of Willie Loman from death of a salesman. It really is a sad thing, and the saddest thing for me is any salesman who wouldn’t recommend it as a career to his children. My advice is earn 10 grand a year less and drop a couple of deals from the pipeline in order to keep your self-esteem. Over the course of 20 to 30 years of a sales career it will even itself out financially in the deals that you will win because you held yourself in high esteem and will be worth it in the end. The guys that keep that level of self-esteem and the ones that holds strong over the 20 to 30 years of their sales career invariably are the ones that genuinely end up in the boardrooms of the major top 100 companies doing the really big deals. They take sh%t off no man but are polite, professional, friendly, warm, caring and loving and invariably when quizzed truly love what they do. The first question to ask yourself whether you think that you may be losing a little bit of self-esteem is not ”are my shoes shiny, but “Will I recommend this job to my kids after the day’s work. I’ve had”. If the answer is no, then make sure you steel yourself the next day. You don’t have to be arrogant. You don’t have to be aggressive but you don’t have to take the grief of the clients. Be aware of when they are slighting you. There is nothing wrong with saying to the client “do you know I prefer if you didn’t eat down the phone – we can have a more effective business conversation when you are ready so why don’t you and I rearrange for the time and we can really focus on this” If the client doesn’t like it, move on. Find one who will buy off you. You’ll still hit target because you will have your self-esteem. Clients want to buy from people who believe in themselves and their products.