I heard the most incredible story about a salesperson, I just had to share it. I guess sometimes in life the most important things that are simple are just not easy.
My client, a VP of Sales, shared with me what makes one of her best salespeople so special. And she talked about how this person closed her fiscal year with a multi-million dollar opportunity. But the way she described this “salesperson” didn’t sound like a salesperson to me.
In fact, she describes her as not the person who has the most product knowledge. She’s not the one that adheres to the process. Getting her to use Salesforce.com is always an uphill fight. So, then what is it that makes her so special? I remember meeting her for the first time, and I wanted to know what made her tick. She kept talking about her role as being a consensus builder, and it wasn’t just consensus within her company, it was towards those she would “sell” to. And the more I talked with her, the more humble she became, “I’m always bringing people in when I don’t have the answers.”
And when polling people around her, everyone would say the same thing: they would describe her as being comfortable to be around. You know that feeling when you’re with somebody who’s so comfortable in their own skin that you, in turn, feel comfortable in your own skin. Its always a conversation that’s just deeper than the superficial stuff; ask questions, give answers, problem solve (we all know that routine).
But here’s the story my client, the VP Sales, shared with me about her:
She was working on a multi-million dollar deal right up until the end of their fiscal year. After having dinner with the CIO, she was invited to his house. I’m guessing she wasn’t expecting that. But his invitation was really an invitation into his life. He wanted to introduce her to his husband.
And I thought about that for a while after I heard it. And I think I understood what happened and why he invited her into his life. This was more than a vendor relationship, more than a simple connection, this was about someone letting another person into their inner circle, and I think about how much trust must have been built. I don’t think he would have said she was a “trusted advisor”, a “vendor” or any of the other labels we use to categorize salespeople. I know when I invite people into my home; its when I trust them so deeply, and feel safe with that person. I want them close to me.
And there it was; I realized what it was that makes this person so special. She makes people feel safe and comfortable.
And I think about that a lot. It sounds so simple, but there’s a lot to it. She’s a person that feels comfortable and secure with herself. She is not afraid to make waves. She’s such a storyteller, opens up about her life without any pretense, and lets people in. And in return, you want to let her in. When you’re with her, it can be exhaustive because it’s one story after another, but it always worth it. And its never one-sided. It feels cooperative and collaborative.
There’s a really important lesson here; that if we change our own philosophies about why we do what we do, and what it’s all about, we’ll realize it’s not all about problem-solving (maybe that’s a small piece of it is) and it’s not about the transaction or the close. It’s about forming these really deep relationships where we naturally let people into our lives. And when we do that, selling is the natural by-product. Sure, this CIO bought from her, spent millions of dollars in fact, but the relationship was even bigger.
When we let people into our lives, they reciprocate and they let us into their lives. It’s simple, but not easy.