Yeah, I know what the immediate reaction to the title of this post will be…..
“But Dave, we’re slaves to our managers and our companies………!”
I get it, I’m talking about something different, but if your managers are treating you like slaves, gently remind them the Emancipation Proclamation was put into effect on January 1, 1863 (for non US readers, I’ll have to do some research).
What I’m focusing on is the application of the principles of Servant Leadership to how we work with our customers.
Underlying the concept of servant or transformational leadership are roughly 10 principles:
- Healing (In a business sense we may think of this more as coaching, mentoring, even problem solving).
- Awareness (Both of ourselves and others.)
- Commitment to the growth of people
- Building community
But what if we examined the principles of servant leadership as applied to selling?
- Listening—kind of obvious in engaging customers and understanding their goals, dreams, challenges, problems. Yet too often, we spend the time talking. Or we listen selectively, waiting for cues to go into pitch mode. This is active listening–engaging the customer in deep understanding and conversations in which there is shared learning.
- Empathy—if we can’t put ourselves in the customer’s shoes, if we can’t see things from their point of view, we will never be able to connect with them and engage them in meaningful ways.
- Healing—in a very real sense, selling is about healing, helping the customer solve problems, helping them learn how to improve. But this occurs at both an organizational and individual level. Too often, we miss the connection at the individual level–we focus on the business goals and return. But we forget how the individual–what do they want to achieve, how are we helping them, how do they see themselves in the situation?
- Awareness—there are a couple of perspectives here. The first focuses on our awareness of the customer, their problems, challenges, and opportunities. The second is broadening the customers’ awareness of their own situations, of new methods, ways to improve, and so forth.
- Persuasion—we talk a lot about this in selling, usually from the point of view of pitching. I prefer to think of this as a way of helping the customer create and own a compelling need to change.
- Conceptualization—this is critical, it’s really about helping the customer create a vision of a new future and how they might get there. It’s important that the customer is involved in creating the vision–it becomes part of them, rather than someone else’s vision.
- Foresight—encompasses the wisdom of past experiences, applying them to helping the customer achieve their goals. We leverage not only the customer’s own experience, but the experiences of working with other customers in their attempts to solve similar problems. We leverage these principles in our own process of engaging customers effectively.
- Stewardship—this term has fallen out of fashion, but really speaks to personal ownership, accountability, and responsibility. We see from that stewardship helps center us in our role within our own companies, as well as in trying to be genuinely helpful to our customers.
- Commitment to the growth of people—this should be self explanatory. It’s a drive for our own personal learning and growth, as well as working with our customers, teaching them, helping them learn, helping them address their problems/opportunities and to grow personally/organizationally. How do we help our customer grow–organizationally and individually. All this is really a core part of the value we create with our customers.
- Building community—as sales people working in complex B2B sales, we know we need support from within our own company, our partners, and others. We know our ability to grow our relationships within our enterprise accounts and territories is continually building trust and our relationships.
The Servant Sales Person creates superior value with their customers. The Servant Sales Person creates superior value with their colleagues and within their organization.
The principles of Servant Leadership are also fundamentals to becoming a high performance sales person.
Oh, and by the way, you may want to drop a copy of this on your manager’s desk. Perhaps, they’ll think of their role in being servant leaders to their teams 😉