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Does “Being Yourself” Count As A Sales Technique?

by David Brock on August 27th, 2010

I few days ago, I started a discussion with “What Are The 3 Characteristics That Set Great Sales People Apart?”  followed by “How Important Are ‘Techniques’ To Sales?”  I hadn’t meant to turn this into a series (or saga), but the discussion has been very interesting.  For me, it has been a bit of a journey of discovery.  I’ve always had an aversion to what I call “techniques”  — those 68 closing techniques, the persuasion technique and so forth. 

At the same time, there are techniques or tools that I have found very helpful, questioning approaches, storytelling as a means of illustrating complex points, using humor to offset my natural clumsiness, and so forth.   Somehow, these techniques have become “a part of me.”  They are natural, I never have to think about them, they seem to flow with what I am trying to achieve in engaging the customer.

Perhaps my aversion to what I view as “the techniques” is that I’ve never been very good at using most of them.  I get too caught up in listening to the customer and having a conversation to remember that I should be “mirroring” them or that I should be using certain neuro linguistic or psychological wording  (Make sure you say their name in every sentence …. or whatever that one is).  Somehow I’m too busy working with the customer defining the next steps and moving forward to remember to ask if they like German Shepherds or Saint Bernards (I think the puppy dog close goes something like that).

I wonder if being yourself counts as a technique?  Somehow, I have found my customers and prospects seem to like having a conversation, they tend to appreciate directness.  I have managed to stop saying “that’s the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard, ”  but I chalk that up to politeness.  I tend to handle that with, “Have you ever considered looking at it differently?”  Maybe that’s a technique.

I think of the experiences I’ve had with people selling me something.  I know they are trying to sell me something, I don’t resent it, after all I participating in the discussion.  But the sales calls I appreciate the most are those great directed and focuses conversations.  No pretense, no techniques (I know most of them well enough that I watch for them), just a discussion focused on what I am trying to achieve and how they can help me.

I sit in meetings in large corporations–I see selling going on in every meeting.  People trying to persuade others about an idea or an approach.  People discussing different things, having honest disagreements or differences but working to resolve them.  People aligned to achieving common goals.

Sometimes I think we would be much more effective as sales professionals if we started simplifying things, if we had the courage to be ourselves, if we focused on natural conversations with our customers.  Be sure, these aren’t random or wandering conversations.  Remember, one of the characteristics that I think distinguishes top sales performers is “goal directed curiosity and a problem solving orientation.”  I don’t have a lot of patience (or the requisite social graces) for random conversations.  I’m interested in having great conversations with people who have problems or goals that I can do something about.  I’m interested in learning what they want to achieve and demonstrating how I can help them achieve their goals better than anyone else.  I tend to be very focused and direct about this and they know it.  Somehow, virtually everyone seems to appreciate it—they like getting to the issues without the typical “dancing” we often do.

Let me crawl further out on the limb I’m on.

Sometimes I think we use ” the techniques” for surrogates for being ourselves and being truly engaged in having a conversations with our customers.  When we aren’t curious about the customer and what they are trying to achieve, when we aren’t trying to solve problems, when we really don’t care about them other than convincing them to buy our products, it’s hard to be ourselvesa and be engaged.  Perhaps this is when we use techniques.  Perhaps this is a sweeping generalization and very inaccurate, but it seems those people (I hesitate to call them sales professionals) who use “the-techniques” in the most manipulative ways are those who are more focused on themselves and selling their product and less focused on me and what I need.

Techniques can be important and useful, but I think they have greatest impact when they allow the sales person to be her/himself and enable them to connect more naturally in real conversatons with the customer.

Am I crazy?

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15 Comments
  1. Hi Dave

    You may be right. You may be crazy. But it just might be a lunatic we’re looking for.

    “be yourself” is about the worst advice you can give to some people. – JB Priestly

    I agree. Over reliance on techniques can result in that aweful feeling we’ve all had of being “sold to.” ICK! This is one of the reasons I enjoy your blog so much: a common thread throughout – the way to make the most of the best techniques without sounding like a robot is to be so in tune with the principles behind the techniques that they become a natural consequence of being in the zone during a sales engagement, not a checklist to tick off with each customer.

    This concept can be readily seen in the theatre. Actors don’t just memorize lines – they convince others that they are another person entirely. In order to do so, they get “into character.” It’s not that they are not being themselves or not using techniques so much as they are focused on communicating something much greater than themselves and have become so comfortable and intimate with the character and techniques that they mesh seemlessly and convince us all to see the message rather than the methods.

    I believe sales techniques are important but they must be discreet and invisible to be effective. What counts, as you point out above is communicating a sincere and constant focus on the customer and their needs. Anything less is counterfeit and counterproductive. Your customer will see right through it and they will shut you down.

    I appreciate hearing your thoughts today Dave,

    Don F Perkins

    • Don–you’re so much smarter than me!!! Thanks for the great comment. It really adds to the discussion! Regards, Dave

  2. Dean Showalter permalink

    No sir you are not crazy,

    I am a long time salesperson with lots of sales training in my past 23 years sales experience from companies like Xerox, Ikon and Sharp.

    I think you hit a bullseye with your article. After my years of sales experience I have come up with the same conclusion. I feel your personal sales techniques evolve over time, along with your personal values as a person. How do you really feel about your customer? How would you like to be treated? Based upon my experiences , what is the best solution for this customer? Those are just a few of the questions going through my mind during a sales call. I know my customers are going to get the very best service from me, just because this how my sales techiques have evolved, being myself. Many time I find I care about my solution much more than my customer. I truly want them to be 110% satisfied.

    I also feel that most sales people try to be someone they are not. They try and act like they are not a sales person and try to fool the customer with all sorts of sales techniques. I feel this a sign of true inexperience, I was one of those guys until my experiences in this world beat me over the head telling me. The customer is looking for a consultant someone who really cares and someone they can trust. The hard part is convincing your customer your really for real.

    I am glad to hear someone else is thinking the way I am. The jazzy salespeople out there are continuing help the continuation of the salesman stereotype, but I am doing what will help me sleep at night. I am doing it the right way. This is they only way I can sell these days, with all of my heart and soul. Do the right thing, your customers will appreciate it and you will apreciate it. I am proud to be a sales professional.

    Thanks for your article.

  3. antonio permalink

    im an italian salesman, i read david’s comment and i really agree with him.Top salesman don’t need to know sales tecnichques, they need only beeing yourself and experience on field.

    • Antonio, thanks for joining the discussion. I think in reality, we take “techniques” and adopt them to our own natural style. Where “being yourself” and the technique become inseparable. I appreciate the comment, keep joining the discussion.

  4. Hey David,

    It will be interesting to see where this series heads 🙂
    I completely agree, to me and my fellow colleagues the best situation to be in is when the customer starts talking, best of all if it is about his/her own life.

    The more they talk, the more they like us and the more likely they are to buy our products.

    No regular sales technique is going to make them talk about their private lives, a great needs analysis is based on the task at hand, asking for the order won’t get them to tell me about their kids play and so on.

    Being myself and making friends and then asking for the close is the most effective way to sell (at least in my experience).

    People always buy because of an emotional decision, if they like you they will want to buy from you and then they will let you help them find lots of logical arguments that suit their situation.

  5. Paul Klotz permalink

    It is the crazy people that are generally most sane as we do not tend to pretend. Basic communication between two people generally is successful when one or both parties are sincerely interested in knowing more about the other person – their likes, dislikes, hobbies, where they are going etc etc etc….the same applies to sales today. Generally the most successful (and sustainable) sales people are those who naturally interact with their customers – no formal script or techniques to follow to the letter. They have a geniune interest in what the person does within the organisation, what the strategy, direction and objectives are, who their customers are, who their customers customers are, what challenges & roadblocks they face etc etc etc….By getting to know the customer this way, only will trust and a relationship develop and only then will you be able to add value to the relationship.
    The days of the robotic script driven sales person should be over.
    All hail to the natural one

  6. Hello David and fellow Professionals,

    I have long been an advocate of this concept: being truthful and selling yourself ahead of any product or entity. I am firm believer that in today’s marketplace – among all the talk about differentiation, features and benefits – the only true differentiator is the person representing the product, service or entity.

    I see evidence that the themes of trust, respect and credibility of the representative have great influence over the decisions a customer makes and how they choose to interact with suppliers and service providers. When I poll customers about why one supplier or product is chosen over another, these themes continue to prevail. Another common misconception is that the representatvie must have a strong technical background, and understand customer process and technology; in our industry, nothing can compensate for this foundational knowledge. In fact, many of the customers I have polled on this subject find the opposite, the most influencial representatives rarely have a strong technical background. Many are commercially focused individuals. What all possess and demonstrate is an authentic drive to align to customer strategies and initiatives, work collaboratively to solve a problem and bring real value to the customer. They seek that win-win scenario: learning and continuous improvement in the supplier organization, and a solution for the customer that has positive impact on their operations or product quality.

    Capabilities and competencies are not irrelevant. However, the individual that is perceived as genuine, truthful and altruistically interested in solving a problem for a customer, or enabling an improvement that improves their bottom line, can often overcome perceived or actual gaps in product or service capabilities and competencies.

    In my experience, the representative that exhibits these behaviors acts instinctively. It’s seemingly in their DNA. Most of the representatives like this, with whom I have crossed paths over the years, have not had much formal sales training. They may be familiar with some techniques, but most are successful just for being themselves, and representing themselves with unyielding integrity, which customers recognize as the relationship evolves.

    Thanks for starting this discussion. I enjoyed it.

    • Carla, thanks for the very thoughtful comments. They really resonate with me. Specifically, the comment, “the only true differentiator is the person respresenting the product…..” This is the most powerful yet underestimated thing in sales. The most sustainable differentiation is the value the sales person brings to the customer in facilitating their buying process. Those sales people who know how to do this and consistently execute it, will win more consistently and build greater customer loyalty. Thanks for the great insight and joing the discussion. Keep contributing!

  7. Hi David,

    Great article. I agree with you and many posters here – Being Yourself is the most effective way to sell. I wrote my thoughts on this topic (before reading yours even!) here:

    http://www.yesware.com/blog/2010/09/06/sales-tip-1-be-yourself/

    The corollary to the honest, natural, genuine approach, however, is that rejection hurts a bit more. If we are putting up fronts, being fake, it’s a lot easier to take when the prospect blows us off. Either we can be aggressively defensive about their reaction, or we can shield ourselves from their rejection by thinking that they just didn’t like our front.

    When we are being ourselves, our defenses are down a bit more. But that’s exactly why the genuine approach is more effective. Most humans would much rather relate with a genuine, direct, honest person.

    Thanks for thinking and writing in your unique voice.

    Matthew

    • Great post Matthew and great comments here. Rejection always hurts–if we care about what we are doing. Being genuine and investing ourselves is about caring. Being genuine is also about vulnerability, but we tend to be afraid to display this when we sell.

      I really appreciate your insights. Thanks for joining the conversation, hope to see you here frequently!

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