In the movie adaptation of play Glengarry Glen Ross, Alec Baldwin bellowed the famous "always be closing" speech. It became a mantra for salespeople, but as time has gone on, it's become less of a mantra and more of a warning sign for most sales leads. While Baldwin and his ilk may think that the best way to do well at sales is to focus totally on numbers and forget about the customer, it's become obvious that salespeople need to be trained well. Being a salesperson is difficult, too. There's a lot of momentum, with some suggesting that the best way to do well is to ride the wave of a great sale into your next one. The problem? It gets really tempting to focus on big numbers and hitting your goals without failure, just like Wells Fargo.
With any business the important part is to start with a grounding in high standards. One way to do so is total transparency with the customer. For example, Buffer has created total transparency across the board in a Silicon Valley world where nobody knows who makes what (just that they make a lot). The result is that people trust Buffer and admire their approach to how they run their company. This means that any customer being sold to (or employee working for buffer) knows exactly what they're doing.
And then there's the idea of ethical sales. Sales itself is a fact of life; there's something to sell to someone who wants to buy it, and these salespeople are going to exist. In his piece on ethical sales, he recommends that sales organizations "Be a stand for ethical selling, make sure it's in your culture and communicate the importance and responsibility your salespeople and sales leadership has to represent the career of professional selling." His piece digs into the reasons that companies get an unhealthy sales culture; that they're pushing quota over quality, over long-term annual recurring revenue and threatening those that aren't "performing" without understanding performance over time is powerful.
SalesLoft, far from the valley in Atlanta, Georgia, built their newly-focused product Cadence on the idea of ethical sales. In a recent blog post announcing their funding, their COO Rob Forman said that "culture is our values, consistently applied," when discussing a huge round of funding including $10m in personal funding from Pardot founder (sold to ExactTarget, which was sold to SalesForce) David Cummings. The product itself is built to create a rhythm in communication with potential customers and constantly makes you evaluate the data about the customer to make the sale.
Marc Benioff and Salesforce also become the major pusher of ethical, thoughtful sales. A recent blog post by Mark Thorniley, Regional Vice President of Salesforce, discussed the way in which manufacturers and every salesperson must adapt to a far more unforgiving and brutal customer landscape. One particularly powerful quote hones in on ethical sales; the idea that each customer must get a customized, thoughtful approach. "Personalized experiences are creating better customer connections. Customers respond to one-to-one experiences that go beyond product customization and spans their entire customer journey" said Thorniley. While some of the post focuses on manufacturing directly, the lessons from Salesforce are applicable to any salesperson. If you lack a platform to communicate on, and the ability to create a direct customer connection, you won't be able to create "a great customer experience" as he puts it; something every salesperson can believe in.
The most powerful conclusion one can take from the idea of ethical sales is to stand by key points:
The best sales don't even feel like sales, but connections between two sides that need each other. One needs money, the other needs a product that solves their problem. If you're going to be a great salesperson, think of solving someone else's needs with the bonus of making money from it. Great companies already are. You could be too.