There’s an old saying in sales, that “you eat what you kill.” This line of thinking is typical in the traditional sales mindset — the job of being a salesperson is supposed to be like being a hunter — you’re supposed to be aggressive, proactive and competitive. You’re supposed to get out there and make things happen and win people over and triumph. This mentality has served sales people well for many generations — but what if there is another way of doing sales? What if the new rules of sales are slightly different, and requiring a new approach?
The truth is, in B2B sales, in the new era of digital marketing and social media lead generation and content marketing, when customers are more informed than ever before, the role of the sales person has changed. Successful sales people now are less like “hunters,” and more like “gardeners.”
Sales Mindset Tips
Here are a few reasons why your sales approach might require a change in mindset — and why the best sales people are more like gardeners than hunters.
Sales is a Long-Term Effort
B2B sales success requires steady, incremental effort — like planting and tending a garden, instead of a one-time “kill” from a successful hunt. Just like a good gardener knows how to be patient and stay in it for the long haul, good sales people today need to conduct long-term lead nurturing of their sales prospects. You can’t just expect to go out and make a big sale immediately; these things take time. Especially for major account B2B sales, it might take 12-18 months (or longer) to close a sale, start to finish.
Sales is Collaborative, Not Adversarial
Too many companies seem to think that they are at war with their customers. “You eat what you kill” sounds strange when you really think about it — after all, you shouldn’t want to “kill” your customers, you should want to help them! Ultimately, your job as a sales person or small business owner talking with customers should be to approach the conversation as a collaborative effort. “How can I help you and your business? How can I make your life better? We are on the same team here!” Look for opportunities for your customers’ interests to align with your own.
Ideally, what you are selling should improve your customer’s condition. You’re selling something to the customer, it’s true – but what you’re selling should add so much value to your customer’s life that it is worth more than it costs: in terms of time savings, efficiency gains, productivity boosts, cost reductions, and intangible emotional benefits. Just like gardeners often exchange gardening tips with their friends and neighbors — in a spirit of collaboration — you as a sales person need to be generous and helpful, not aggressive and overbearing.
Sales is About Mutually Beneficial Relationships, Not Zero-Sum “Wins”
Another problem with the traditional “hunter” mentality in sales is that it tends to treat sales as a zero-sum game: “I win, you lose.” If you treat your customers as just points on a scoreboard, they will start to feel that you don’t really care about them. Don’t treat your customers as means to an end. You’re not just there to rack up sales and run up the score; you should be there to create a mutually beneficial sales relationship.
This is not just “the right thing to do,” it’s also smart business. Because in today’s highly networked economy, customers’ word of mouth spreads faster than ever. If customers feel well treated and respected by you, they’ll be likely to tell their friends and give you referrals. If customers feel disrespected or shortchanged or deceived by you, they will shout it from the rooftops on social media and beyond. It can be hard to recover from a damaged reputation and today’s sales business is all about trust. Make sure you are sincerely, earnestly adding value and bringing a spirit of care and connectedness to your sales conversations. Customers aren’t there to give you a sale — you are there to help the customer.
Think about it in terms of gardening: do most gardeners hoard their vegetables and brag about how great their tomatoes are? No! They tend to share the bounty at harvest time. At its best, gardening has a sense of abundance. People don’t garden because they want glory and trophies, they do it because they want to learn and share and grow. Successful sales people today should have this same attitude — it’s about growing relationships and having a rich bounty of sales opportunities over time.
You are not fighting your customers, you’re trying to help them. You’re not enemies, you’re on the same team. If you can bring a spirit of generosity and cooperation to your sales process — thinking less like a “trophy hunter” and more like a “gardener” — your sales success is likely to blossom.