Sales is suffering from an image problem. In the post-pandemic recovery period, many companies shifted into overdrive to make up for lost time and grow the business. Much to everyone’s surprise, businesses didn’t find a bevy of candidates leaping at the chance to regain sales positions lost or laid off during the pandemic.
The reasons given for the lack of eagerness vary. Many, like the Wall Street Journal, attribute this trend to the field’s popular perception. Potential new recruits want to avoid throwing their hats into the high-pressure world of Mad Men. Worse yet, nobody dreams of becoming the high-pressure telemarketer who wakes you up at 4:30 in the morning to tell you your car warranty is about to expire.
Yet, sales will never go away. Call it sales, call it business development, there will always be a need for people to convince others to buy your products. To attract and retain new talent, it’s worth examining how you conduct your sales.
One approach to this is emphasizing integrity in the sales process. The typical image associated with sales involves a car salesman conniving customers with last minute additions and sleazy tactics. To build a sales team centered on Integrity, it takes planning and consistency.
To act with integrity, you must first define integrity. The classic Merriam-Webster definition of the word is “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” Another way to define it is “doing what you say and saying what you do.”
When you articulate a central sales objective like this, it’s important to align your team on what you actually mean when you are asking your team to act with integrity. How do you want them to connect with customers? What do you strive to feature about your products?
An important thing to realize is integrity must be consistent. Either you have integrity, or you don’t. All it takes for a consistent message to be undermined is an instance of dishonesty.
If you are going to ask for integrity, you model integrity for your employees. As the old saying goes, you practice what you preach. If you demand integrity from your employees, while lying, cheating, or stealing, they will notice. If you steal something off their desk, they will really notice. If the leadership doesn’t have to act with honesty, then why should they?
One way we’ve found to emphasize integrity and build connections is not using PowerPoint in sales presentations. You may initially think this is all an elaborate ruse to avoid buying our sales team an Office 365 license. The software has earned its place as an office staple, but endless presentations are boring and makes the focus on getting through a 20-slide presentation, instead of sharing what you uniquely offer.
In a PowerPoint heavy approach, sales calls would start off with the typical round of introductions, followed by the slides filled with company history. Over time, what we found paid dividends was focusing on talking with your potential clients and asking your clients’ needs. If you talk with the customer first and figure out what they’re looking for, you can represent yourself more effectively. A better sales approach is focusing on what you have that will help them, versus what is on the next PowerPoint slide.
A big part of selling with Integrity is not being afraid to admit that you don’t have what people need. Sales calls are a dime a dozen, and you stand out when you admit there’s room for improvement. The key to this is using the power of language. Instead of saying “Yes, we promise to meet that expectation, but we don’t have the experience,” try “Yes, we promise to meet that expectation, and we don’t have the experience.” The difference seems minor, but the impact of using precise language made is major.
Another avenue to model integrity is through your messaging; for example, promising return on investment or you don’t pay. With that promise, you demonstrate integrity, saying “we we will meet our goals and abide by our promises, even if it costs us money.”
Beyond the simple recruiting benefits, it’s much easier to sell what you believe in. When your sales team can speak passionately about how they believe in the product, others will too. A strategy based around integrity can offer you so much more than just the ability to recruit more salespeople.