One of my all-time favorite books is “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino. (If you haven’t read it, stop reading this post right now and run out and get a copy. Actually, buy every Og Mandino book you can get your hands on. No, I don’t get a cut!)
The book is particularly valuable, because it has little to do, really, with “Sales” as a profession. Rather, it’s a primer on how to conduct oneself in both business and personal environments and centers on the concept of being first an agent of change within oneself. I read it when I was a budding salesperson in the late 1980’s (can it really have been that long?) and it has served as the starting point for a personal and professional philosophy that has been in development ever since.
A portion of that philosophy is what I call “Be, Do, Have” – a way of thinking and acting that revolutionized my life and career. I believe that most of us get those three elements in the wrong order and we go with “Do, Have, Be.”
For example, someone will say to themselves, “If I DO such-and-such (overtime, sales volume, multiple jobs…), then I’ll HAVE (money, success, a boat…) and then I’ll BE successful/happy/at peace.”
Do you know any unhappy people with boats? Me too.
Focusing first on the “be” portion means getting our internal priorities straight. It answers for us questions that deal with purpose and meaning. When we have purpose and meaning straight, the “do” portion is virtually automatic; we will fulfill that purpose as naturally as an apple tree bears fruit. Finally, when our actions are in concert with our purpose and meaning, the “have” part follows just as naturally. We’ll then have whatever it is that truly provides us with success, happiness, peace and abundance.
The boat, you see, is merely a symbol, as are money, titles, possessions (including real estate!) and so on. Don’t misunderstand- I like money. I earn it. I use it. I also like boats and certainly intend to have one soon. But as Deepak Chopra has said, “Settling for symbols is like settling for the map instead of the territory.”
So what does that have to do with sales, service and leadership? I’m glad you asked!
I was brought on board with America’s Funding Partners largely on the strength of my “sales” ability, but I find that in reality I don’t do much “selling”. I do reach out to new contacts and look for opportunities to present my solutions with an eye toward closing business. I do market myself and my company. I do engage in conversations about why someone should do business with me/us. But as every professional lender/broker/investor/financier/business owner knows knows, selling is mostly about asking questions. If the responses you’re getting from prospects are flat-line, you simply haven’t asked enough of the right questions. We’ve all experience the salesman who never learned that “telling isn’t selling.” You can't shut them up. They know their product inside and out.
And you don't buy. Because they don't care.
I was blessed with parents who taught me to ask “Why?” a lot.
Selling isn’t telling?
Again, glad you asked. This is where service and leadership come in. These concepts are so central that someone much wiser than me coined the term “servant leadership.”
I spoke with a gentleman recently who has been operating a baby products business for a couple of years. He has significant opportunity to increase his sales but needs working capital to increase production in order to meet his growing demand. He’s a brilliant man with a great product that I predict will become a well-known brand in a very short time. He knows his product. He knows his audience. He knows how to bring it to market. He also knows that people don't buy his product, they buy what the product will do for his customers.
What he doesn’t know is how to present all of this to a lender. He needs someone who will go to work for him (service) and someone who can also give him instructions regarding what to do next (leadership).
My definition of “leader” is quite simple: A leader is someone who has followers. I don’t care if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500, if nobody’s following, you ain’t leading. Typically – at least in our society – people CHOOSE to follow and they make that choice based on whether the would-be leader will work towards SERVING their needs, goals or ambitions.
I don’t care what your product is, leadership is your business and service is the vehicle that delivers it. Your client needs your leadership. They need for you to guide and instruct them. They frankly need you to tell them what to do. They need to know that what you’re telling them is, in fact, in their best interest.
A local gentleman was recently acquitted of fraud charges. He had been accused of defrauding investors of millions of dollars. The justice system found that he hadn't done anything “criminal”. Nonetheless, his case revealed two simple truths:
He had certainly been a “leader” - people followed him and his advice.
He certainly had NOT “served” anyone but himself.
The net result for him? Scandal. Bankruptcy. Loss of trust. Limited future prospects.
Wouldn't it have been easier and ultimately more profitable for him to do good business? To develop a model that included servant leadership into his sales endeavors?
What are you focused on? Yourself? What you can get?
Nonsense. I guess the thesis statement for this should have been, “You'll profit more by calculating what you can give than what you can get.”
It may seem a bit touchy-feely for some of you hardcore finance and investor types. If it does, read two Og Mandino books and call me in the morning.