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Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change.” I’ve met many honestly arrogant sales people, and I’ve rarely been impressed. Unfortunately, the arrogant salesperson is stereotypically the successful salesperson. But what about the humble salesperson? Can that person be as successful as the arrogant one? Can he win business and earn commissions at the same levels as the salesperson you wouldn’t take home to visit family?
Obviously, I think the humble salesperson can be a successful salesperson. In fact, I think such a salesperson has the potential to be even more successful if she can overcome some of the natural barriers humble people seem to possess. I think this because I believe humility is far more attractive than arrogance. But humility can also be a massive hindrance to success when it is allowed to be a self-limiter. In other words, humility can get in the way of success if you let it, but it can be a huge asset if you know how to use it.
Keys of Successful Salespeople
When we think of a salesperson, we usually think of someone who never met a stranger, doesn’t care what other people think of him, and is extremely confident. He believes you would be foolish to not buy what he is selling. He knows the product intimately and has no fear asking you, no, telling you to buy it. He’s the type of person you are almost afraid to say no to. In this description, we find some of the keys of successful salespeople.
Now, I think you understand conceptually what I’m talking about when I use words like self-confidence, courageous, and knowledgeable. However, terms like insightful and challenging in regard to successful salespeople may need some explanation.
Successful Salespeople Provide Challenging Insights
When a successful salesperson tells you to buy something she does so based on insights she has into your business. She sees things you don’t primarily because she can view your business through a different set of lenses. You look at your business, typically from the inside. She looks at it from the outside. You see the immediate challenges you face, and the tangible influences driving your activities today. She sees the challenges on the horizon and the external influences on your business you are blind to. You see a handful of solutions readily available to you today. She sees a host of powerful solutions to help you grow your business today and prepare you for continued success well into the future. That’s insight!
Her insights challenge your understanding of the realities you face and the solutions available to you. They draw into question your current strategies. They cause you to stop and think and even make you feel uncomfortable. Her insights may even upset you, agitate your state of mind, and make you angry. They can create a sense of fear in your heart. They do this because their truth resonates with you. You see them for what they are, a harsh reality you must face. This is what it feels like to be challenged and this is what a successful salesperson does.
A successful salesperson isn’t afraid to demonstrate to a client he is more knowledgeable about the client’s situation than the client is. He knows the client really needs what he is selling, and he knows the consequences of not buying are large and quantifiable. Furthermore, he isn’t afraid to tell the client this truth.
The Humble Salesperson Must Overcome Barriers
The humble salesperson is just as knowledgeable about the product, the client’s business, and the market forces at play. She certainly sees things her client cannot see and understands the situation more clearly than her client. But what she lacks is the self-confidence and courage necessary to lead with insight and challenge her customer. So, if you are a humble salesperson how can you overcome these barriers? You must do the following:
- Overcome the limitations of impostor syndrome
- Understand and passionately own the unique value you offer
- Recognize that to challenge is to serve
I’ve talked about impostor syndrome in a previous post called, You are a Fake and You Know It. Essentially it is the feeling you are a fake and any success you have experienced is the result of luck. It is the sense you don’t really have the right or authority to say what you say, do what you do, or sell what you sell. Humble people are most prone to suffer from impostor syndrome. As a result, they struggle to take an authoritative stance with their clients. They struggle to challenge their client’s understanding of the world. They struggle to suggest they know better than their client. Do you ever feel this way? I know I do.
You are Not an Impostor
The best way to overcome impostor syndrome is to understand the unique value you offer and then passionately own it. The simple fact that you are a different person with different experiences gives you unique value, but you have even more than this to offer.
Think about! You truly do know more about your business and how it applies to your client’s business than he does, otherwise, why wouldn’t he just self-serve. The fact of the matter is he can’t. He doesn’t have the necessary knowledge or the required resources and bandwidth to do so. He relies on the fact you know more than he does. In fact, he counts on it…depends on it! Regardless of your age or tenure in the business, you are the expert and you possess the insights your client lacks. That is your unique value. Own it, live it and use it. Doing so will give you the confidence you need to lead your customers with challenging insights.
Finally, understand when you challenge your client, you are serving her. You are doing something necessary and sometimes painful that will lead to great results. The meek, humble salesperson may sell a few products, but they won’t create lasting positive results for their customers. But you, as a self-confident and humble salesperson will literally change your client’s business and life the more you are willing to challenge her with leading insights. You are not an impostor! You have unique value! Lead with it!