Selling Is A Human Process, Part 2

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A few days ago, I wrote, Selling Is A Human Process. It generated a lot of discussion, much of it revolving around the theme of, “What keeps us from doing this? What keeps us from engaging customers in a human way?”

I don’t know that I have the answers to those questions, but I have some thoughts.

We know that selling is about relationships. But what does that mean? It’s not about likeability, which may be part of building a relationship. But it’s far deeper than that. It’s about caring. Caring for each person we engage. It’s about respect, whether we agree or disagree with the people we deal with, we can’t develop a relationship and we can’t care with out respecting them. It’s about constantly building trust and being trustworthy.

It’s ironic, we have always talked about selling being about relationships, yet how do we train, coach, reinforce the mindsets, behaviors, attitudes, and skills around building relationships? Where do we see the examples and role models that reinforce the importance of relationships?

I think a lot of our inability to develop relationships, the inability to execute selling as a human process, has to do with the cultures, values, attitudes and behaviors we live in our organizations.

How do we reinforce behaviors of caring for our customers if managers don’t care about their people, their success, their development?

Sadly, people have become widgets in the organization. The data supports this, data shows engagement plummeting. Average tenure is at the lowest point ever, it is somewhere around 16 months–for sales people and managers. Voluntary and involuntary attrition has skyrocketed.

If we don’t care about our people, if we don’t create workplaces where people feel valued, trusted, and want to work, how will we build capability and capacity within our own organizations. How will we demonstrate that with our customers?

How do we build trust, particularly when so much of what we do doesn’t demonstrate trust? We manage by the numbers–how many dials, how many emails, how many meetings, how many activities are people executing? If they don’t make the numbers, we beat them up, not seeking to understand why they aren’t making the numbers.

We manage by the data and numbers, not drilling down to understand what they mean—this requires human interaction and engagement. This involves messy stuff of understanding and respecting differences in people.

We orchestrate and script interactions with customers and measure people on their ability to execute the script? We don’t trust people, or develop their capabilities to figure it out themselves. We don’t diagnose and coach them in learning from their failures, instead saying, “You didn’t stick to the script.”

We structure our organizations, consciously or unconsciously, creating silos and barriers to interaction. Notice throughout this discussion I talk about selling (with thanks to Christian Mauer for reminding me). Sales is an organizational function, a department. Selling engages the entire organization in support of helping our customers.

Too often, we fail to value differences–within our own organizations, with our customers. We hire people who look and act like us. As a result, while we may like each other, we blind ourselves. We fail to recognize changes, disruption, different and new approaches. We are better, we perform better with different ideas, different experiences, different backgrounds and approaches. We bridge those differences with common values, respect, trust, and caring.

Business is a human process.

This is not intended to be a “feel good, kumbaya” statement. If one studies consistently high performing organizations, one discovers it’s not the systems, processes, tools, programs, even the products that sets them apart for those that don’t perform well. All those companies are doing the same things–but they don’t perform as well.

The research consistently shows that the differentiators in consistent high performance is about people and the human processes of working, engaging, caring, respecting, and trust. These organizations differentiate themselves based on culture, values, beliefs. Everything they do is consistently aligned around these things.

These can be tough environments and should be. Each person has high expectations of themselves and their colleagues. Each person knows that everyone must perform at a high level to achieve their shared expectations. Each person trusts their peers to do this. Each person cares about the success of everyone else because they know they can’t be successful if everyone isn’t also successful.

These can be tough environments. If you don’t buy into the culture, values, beliefs, you won’t succeed. If you are unwilling to challenge yourself and others, you won’t succeed. If you don’t respect and trust your colleagues–even if you may disagree with them, you don’t succeed.

If we believe selling is a human process, we have to believe that business is a human process.

We have to build our organizations around caring, trust, respect, learning, and growth. If we do that every day in our own organizations, it becomes habit and we will do that every day with our customers.

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