I'm arguing with Jonathan Graham and Michael Price from the Inward Book Club. They have been kind enough to review a number of my books, and I like them very much. Our small bit of conflict is the result of being two people separated by language.
The kerfuffle is over a line in the outstanding foreword provided by my friend, Charles H. Green. I asked Charlie to write the foreword because I needed someone to deal with the ethical concerns I imagined some would have when being introduced to the main subject of the book, a concept called One-Up. The idea is that the salesperson needs to know more than their clients as it pertains to the decision the client needs to make and how best to improve their results.
Here is the line in question:
If all you do is “win” sales “competitions” with your customers, you’ll eventually be out of a job.
Jonny and Mike are recruiters and have a perspective built on the experience of sales leaders retaining salespeople with what I would describe as brutes, those pushy, self-oriented salespeople straight out of central casting. There is no doubt this is true in the United States, but not prevalent.
Charlie's point is that one who competes with their client—trying to beat the client—is eventually going to run out of clients. Charlie's foreword is a masterclass on the tension and ethical challenges in sales.
The Current Environment
The current environment in the United States is one where a salesperson who cannot create value for the client in the sales conversation will prevent them from getting so much as a second look. A salesperson with a bad bedside manner, or maybe we call this a bad deskside manner, is likely to be treated with extreme prejudice and removed from consideration.
There was a time when you might have needed to buy from a salesperson and their company because there wasn't another choice or alternative available. Those times have passed, and there is a glut of companies competing for their share of the market. The sales organization that provides their prospective clients with a brute, a know-nothing, or a salesperson who is a human website, rattling off facts about their company and product, will find they lack opportunities, as their sales force can't convert a first conversation to a second conversation.
A recent post here was about your competitors doing the things you refuse to do. Should you decide not to field a sales force that can provide your client the experience they need (which is not the same as giving them a salesperson that sells the way buyers want to buy), know for certain that some segment of your competition will.
The Brute and His Lackey
Two weeks before writing this, an investment broker reached out to me to discuss my investments. This poor salesperson was not prepared for the call, starting by asking me about my strategy as an investor. I supplied the answer in a single word: Promiscuous. Not knowing what to say next, he asked me how much money I have in investments, and that's when I bludgeoned him for asking that question. He disclosed that we was calling to qualify me for his senior leader. I told him his script and his approach is terrible, but that it isn't his fault, as his leader should have better prepared him to make a better call.
Thirty minutes later, the senior leader called me in what was certainly a training example for his team who must have been listening, as he defended the salesperson I described to him as awful and that it was his fault. As he spoke, his script was a perfect match for the character Chris Varick in Boiler Room. He told me about a stock and that he could only sell me a small amount, and in the future, we'd swing for the fences... or at least he would.
Caveat Venditor means seller beware. A quick search for the firm and the leader returned a long thread of one-star reviews, the first review being a single word: Crooks! The next five were stories were from people with longer versions of the first review. The Better Business Bureau provided a one-star status. But the Google search brought back a long line of lawsuits from clients and the SEC, one suggesting the senior leader took advantage of the client's margin, which was, no doubt, swinging for the fences.
Having grown up in an apartment complex, I was introduced to street hustlers at a young age. I have a strong reaction to people who would try to take advantage of me. I also lack any aversion to conflict, especially verbal conflict.
Trust and Relationships
Once you reveal that your intention is to reach into the client's pocket to grab their money because you need it, you have made the client's decision for them. That decision is to find another person with a better approach. Because there is so much competition, the client has no end of alternatives available to them. One who projects the belief that their client is a means to an end will find their client moving on without buying from them and without the commission check their competitor is depositing after winning the client's business by being One-Up—without the self-orientation or the poor deskside manner.
There are only two ways to play this game. The first way is to play the short game, doing whatever is necessary to get the money. The second way is to play the long game, building the trust and the relationships that sustain a career in sales.
Both Jonny and Mike suggested they told their clients something they didn't want to hear, as if that is the same as being a self-oriented brute that repels clients. In doing so, they are expressing the idea of being One-Up, as the ethical foundation is the "truth at any price, even the price of your deal."