Every year, I review the Gallup Survey of the most- and least-trusted jobs in America. I’m always happy to see a few healthcare careers — like Nursing — top the list, but I’m not always so overjoyed with the placement of sales roles. In general, these jobs are always included in the least-trusted section of the report.
People often think that all salespeople are smooth-talking, self-serving manipulators, but if there’s one thing my career has taught me, it’s that this persona doesn’t describe everyone in the field. That being said, I do understand why some people think salespeople are scum…
Recently, I had an unfortunate experience with a company that completely confirmed every negative stereotype of a slimy salesperson and less than stellar sales process. In today’s stream of consciousness, I’ll tell you about my awful experience and why it was so wrong, but I’ll also tell you about its silver lining. More specifically, I’ll outline how it’s helped me improve my business and how it can help you improve yours, too.
When you think about a salesperson, do you picture someone that’s self-centered, divisive, pushy and manipulative? For many, these are the first adjectives that come to mind when they’re asked to describe their thoughts about those in the world of sales. The worst part about this, though? These people aren’t necessarily incorrect in their thinking …
In any market, there will always be those bad apples that can give it a bad name; there are doctors that neglect their patients, there are politicians that deliver empty promises, there are educators that have lost their passion for teaching and there are salespeople that lack any sort of integrity to cut moral corners while attempting to draw in more revenue. While it makes me cringe to write this, I’m afraid it’s sad but true.
It All Started With a 100+-Year-Old Home …
My husband and I fell in-love with and purchased a 100+-year-old home and were excited about the idea of making it our own while keeping the charm and integrity that sold us in the first place. Up to that point we had always purchased new construction and we fancied the idea of having our own “stamp” on the property, and so we dove head first to buy this gem.
One of the first renovations we wanted to make on the home was replacing the worn-out floor. For those of you that know me and have heard me vent through this process, you’ll know I spent months researching and deliberating over the perfect choice. It was important to select a floor that would match our style, wear well, and honor the integrity of the rest of our home. After searching countless sites, visiting several showrooms, talking with countless resources, checking references, educating ourselves via the sales rep, and creating many inspiration boards, I found the exact thing I was looking for — beautiful wide-planked, white oak flooring. From there, we quickly pulled the purchasing trigger to order materials and schedule installation with one of the most revered flooring companies in our area.
My husband and I invested a lot of our time communicating with the company upfront so they would know exactly what we needed, wanted, and why. Sadly, they did not return in kind. With every exchange, they treated us like we were a burden and appeared annoyed by our attention to detail.
We persisted despite these red flags and hoped that they would be more accommodating as we pulled the trigger, I mean what can go wrong with putting new floors down? Unfortunately, we couldn’t have been more wrong. Even after our deposit was in place, it was like pulling teeth to get tangible answers and responses to our questions.
Finally, installation day came, and despite our displeasure for our salesperson and their lack of attention to customer experience/service, we were overjoyed! We couldn’t wait to see how the floors looked in our home — especially after so much effort. We walked into our front door with bated breath, and … the floors weren’t “right.” Long story short, they weren’t properly treated pre-installation, and it was clear that the company would need to make several changes to meet our previously communicated expectations. Don’t get me started on the tile in the bathroom either, that’s a whole other nightmare. Cue anxiety, frustration, and stress…
Lesson Learned; Progress Made
If you’ve picked up on a theme throughout this posting, it holds true here, too. We immediately reached out to the company (Salesperson, CEO and CFO) to make them aware of the situation while trying to figure out a solution.
After eight LONG months of trying to communicate with them to fix the problem once and for all (each “fix” made it worse and was poorly executed), we’ve experienced every negative adjective that’s been used to describe a salesperson. Most recently, the CEO/President even swore at my very level-headed, pragmatic husband and hung up on him after repeatedly talking over him. Who does that, let alone a CEO?! The title of this posting is a direct quote from my husband, “this is why salespeople are scum.”
Needless to say, this experience left us feeling flabbergasted, disgusted, and defeated. We had a floor that was damaged from the get-go, and despite our best efforts, we had no idea what the plan was for making it right. Finally, after months of heartache and stress, I realized that I didn’t have to let this experience defeat me.
So, I went back to the drawing board with a new and informed view. I began to brainstorm about how I could take charge instead of waiting for false solutions to finally determine what could be done about my floor and what I could do to avoid an experience like this again in the future.
How to Avoid the Icky Sales Stigma
Personally, I’ll spend my entire life working every day to dispel the icky sales (and recruiting) stigma that exists. This pursuit might seem counterintuitive after reading my previous account, but it’s bad business like this that makes good business all the more important and worthwhile. When I think about my “why” this is at the top of the list. So, how do you avoid the negative stigma while still building a successful career to do great business? There’s no one-size-fits-all method, but here’s what works for me:
I focus on genuinely helping people instead of just making a sale to pad my pockets. I’ve always preached that if you do the right things daily, success will follow, and it always has. Through expressing and acting on a sincere care and interest for my customer’s wants and needs, I help them get exactly what they’re looking for — ultimately helping my bottom line in the process.
I also pride myself on extending this care and interest after the sale is finalized and refuse to go slithering out the side door once the check is in the mail. I want my customer to be happy for the long haul, so I ensure that they get full enjoyment and satisfaction out of the service I provide and what I offer.
Proactive communication is the foundation for success in everything I do along with mutually setting the “stage” up front and resetting it throughout the course of a relationship (personally and professionally). Crossing your fingers and hoping your buyer doesn’t see through the smokescreen just doesn’t work for the long haul and creates more damage than good. If you can’t effectively communicate in sales, it’s time to get the proper help and coaching you need or get out.
Like I always say, the “Golden Rule” rings true and is a guiding force.
What Are You Doing To Avoid The Stigma?
If you’re like me, you’re no stranger to the negatives that can be present in sales. Chances are you’ve had one or more exchanges that have left you feeling frustrated and taken advantage of; however, these experiences do not mean that all sales folk are dirty, rotten scoundrels.
I think it’s time those of us in sales create a better name for the craft, and if you agree, I want to hear from you! What are you currently doing to improve the reputation of sales? What’s the worst situation you’ve dealt with and how did you handle it?
I can’t wait to get your perspective to evangelize an important topic that’s near and dear to my heart. As always, thanks for reading!
I originally wrote this on the Avenue Talent Partners blog.