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Still Harvesting Stories

I had dinner with a battle scarred sales veteran last week. It was an introduction set up by a colleague and I did not really know what to expect from the engagement. This gentleman, as it turns out, had been around the block a few times, carrying the bag to literally all corners of the globe and back. If he couldn’t sell his products in some location or country, he established someone who could and he made them successful in the process. The stories flowed all night, along with a lot of wine, and the more I listened the more I saw a pattern, or more specifically, I detected a pattern and a theme.

The pattern within his stories was all about integrity selling. Building relationships with trust and doing what it takes to satisfy the customers’ needs – nothing was fast, nothing was manipulative. The customer never lost in the end or was a conquest. This was about being successful by being in for the long haul and as a true partner.

At no time did I detect that he was trying to make a point to me with his lore – he was just sharing his experiences and they got more interesting as the bottles got emptier. His success was measured in interesting ways too, like the time one of his distribution partners named his new yacht after the old man. I can only hope somebody names a dinghy after me some day.

This was all quite captivating and I wished for the dinner and the evening to just go on. I was in the presence of a master and truly wanted to absorb from this unique exchange, although the second bottle of wine was starting to catch up with me. Perhaps I was absorbing too much.

On the drive back to my hotel I reflected on what I had heard. Yes, the pattern was about selling through integrity, but the theme of the evening was that there was always yet another story. We did not talk about things that happened back in the olden days. Rather, these anecdotes mostly included events that had just taken place. This spry old salt did not simply have a few successes decades back and then slump into a coast, repeating stories over and over from yesteryear. He kept going! He went after new opportunities and expanded into new ventures, gaining the ability to tell more stories.

It occurred to me that this practice was also a component of integrity selling. It is not just being honest and trustful, it is also being fresh. To be really successful you have to adapt, be flexible, expand, whatever. You don’t just do things the way you did it in the past just because you had some success. You have to keep having the ability to tell new stories.

Yes, in case you were wondering, this has a connection to CRM – two actually.

First, I truly believe that CRM and the technology that enables the benefits of CRM can assist with selling in a way that is moral and ethical. Gaining trust requires being authentic, which software cannot mimic. However, gaining trust can be more steadfastly earned when you can keep up on all the details of the relationships you form. It can help you identify the connections in your network. It can remind you when you need to take an action to maintain confidence. It can alert you when an expected result is due and might require attention on your behalf. And as you become more senior in your tenure, it can help to prop up the memory that might not always be reliable when counting on grey matter alone.

On the other hand, I have to disclose that I am not enthralled with the integrity of the selling that happens within my own industry. It seems, in contrast, that selling software requires one to exclude honesty and authenticity from the selling process. Unnecessary pressuring for a signed contract before the end of a quarter, deceptively exaggerating the capabilities of the functionality, throwing the services partners under the bus to salvage a deal, the atrocities are endless and I prefer not to elaborate. Sorry if I offend anyone, but I don’t feel I work within an industry that exudes integrity selling; this is a travesty because many of the client industries we support hold this as a seriously high ideal.

Assblower

When I operate within the role of sales person, it makes my job significantly harder because I have to overcome high barriers that have been erected due mostly from all the duplicity conducted before my arrival.

Getting back to my recent dinner partner, in conclusion, I sincerely wish more of my colleagues could listen to someone who can achieve honest-to-God success without stooping to tactics that ultimately degrade our value. And that brings up a thought. There is a special organization founded back in the 60’s, VISTA, initially a volunteer corps of those who have been successful in their careers turned to service those who need help to rise out of poverty. I wish we could establish a corollary organization that matches volunteers, who have been successful with their professional morals, together with those who need help to rise out of the poverty of their professional souls.

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