Did you just SELL your SOUL for a SALE? Have you ever wanted a sale so badly that you were willing to make compromises in pursuit of that sale? I’m not just talking about discounting or sweetening the deal, but compromising your personal values and integrity by taking on a customer who you know simply isn’t a fit. Here’s my story, and the valuable lesson I learned that everyone in sales can relate to. That is, before you take on that questionable customer, examine the health and integrity of the sale to ensure you don’t compromise yours, and what’s best for your customer, your company, and you.
I Got the Sale! But at What Cost?
I was in my first few years of building my coaching practice when I was contacted by the head of Learning and Development at a well-known global tech company. They were looking for a keynote speaking for their January Sales Kickoff. The entire sales organization would be there. Managers and salespeople. About 1,200 people in total.
Our initial conversation went great. I followed my sales coaching process to a tee. And at the end of our hour-long conversation, Lauren said, “I love your energy, knowledge, and passion and think you’d be a great fit for our keynote speaker for our sales kickoff. From there, we’d like to explore having you coach and work with our managers to become great coaches on a wider scale.”
“What an awesome opportunity!” I thought, as I began salivating over what this could mean for me and my business.
During our conversation, I asked the four questions and got the responses I thought I needed to ensure I understood the audience and her expectations from me.
1. What are your expectations?
“We want our sales leaders to learn what coaching is. The fundamentals.”
2. What do you want the audience to leave with?
“A few things,” Laura started listing.
First, a framework they can start using to coach people immediately.
Second, if you can pour a foundation of what coaching is, and share a definition of coaching that our entire company can align around.
I’d also like to see if you can do a coaching exercise with the entire group.
Oh, finally, can you talk about how to deal with underperformers, how to motivate people, as well as some tips on how to go about observing people and provide constructive feedback. Sound good so far?”
“Absolutely,” I said. “And while you’re at it, would you like me to also solve world peace and eradicate world hunger?” I thought, and wished. But I NEEDED this deal. I WANTED this engagement.
I then asked the final question I had for this call. “How much time do I have to deliver this keynote?”
“Okay,” I replied, as I mustered up as much confidence as needed so that it came through in my message. “I’m excited about working with you and your managers, and over-deliver on your expectations.”
Stop Jumping Through Flaming Hoops For Your Customers, You’ll Get Burned.
A Compromise of Integrity
“Great!” Lauren said.” Can you send me an agreement, along with an outline of your presentation?”
“And can you send me the PowerPoint presentation you will be using? I want to make sure it covers everything we want.”
Uh-oh. Problems one and two have already surfaced.
- Personally, I strongly dislike delivering keynotes. The reason being, a few of my core values are making an impact, collaboration, and personal connection. Speaking at 1,200 people for 45 minutes on a stage in a massive ballroom becomes very difficult to do.
- The customer started to manipulate my message and presentation.
One week later, after Laura had a chance to review the agreement and my outline, she sent me the following email.
Thanks for sending this over. I’ll have the contract sent back to you next week. Regarding your outline for the keynote, can you make the following adjustments? Remove topic one, add topic five, shorten the time you’ll be talking about the foundation of coaching, and spend more time on how managers can get buy-in around coaching. And I also want you to talk about something else that’s not on this list. I was hoping you can also tie in our recently rolled-out sales model with how managers can coach their salespeople on this new sales process. Thanks!
Before I knew it, this was no longer my keynote but hers. I got Jedi mind-tricked, big time. My voice, my message my purpose, my individuality, my uniqueness, and my passion were gone. I became a robot.
If you’re a company looking to hire the experts, let them do their job. That’s why you hired them.
Instead of pushing back, I did what they wanted me to do rather than what I knew they needed.
I felt off.
I felt out of integrity.
I compromised my values and what I felt was best in pursuit of a sale.
I felt manipulated.
I felt controlled.
And it was all my fault.
A Paradox. Giving your customers and prospects everything they ask for will erode the very trust, relationship, and value you need to build.
So, I put my clown suit on. And when the time came for me to get on stage, I was delivering someone else’s keynote, not mine.
After my keynote, Lauren came to me before I left to catch my flight home. “Good job,” She said. “I’ll be circling back with Bob, our CSO to talk about the next steps to roll out a coaching program for our managers, once I get feedback from him and the team.”
I wasn’t convinced.
“Sound great, I said. Thanks again for the opportunity to work with you on this important initiative!”
The Epic Fail and Collateral Damage
Weeks went by. Lauren was MIA. My Sales Director continued to follow-up until we received the following email from Lauren.
Thanks for reaching out. Our team has decided to go in a different direction, Unfortunately, the feedback was not good so we won’t be exploring the next steps on discussing having you train our managers on coaching.
Delivering exceptional value to your customers doesn’t mean giving them everything they want, including your soul. It means being able to decipher and align what they want, with what they really need. These are the things they have not recognized. Pushing back and challenging your customers are what makes you a valued advisor and sales champion.
The Costly Lesson
“What!” I reacted in surprise. “But I did everything they wanted me to do.”
And at that moment, it was so very clear why this engagement became a costly lesson.
Sure, I got the gig, but at what cost? My values, priorities, passion, integrity? All because I wanted the sale, without taking into consideration whether the customer is aligned with my values and message, or if they want me to surrender my-SELF in order to be aligned with theirs.
The fact is, I’m glad I took this engagement early on in my career. Sure, it was a costly mistake but one that I’ve never made again. I learned the costly lesson and what happens when you compromise your values, individuality, and voice all for the sale, and based on the fear of losing one.
Of course, the universe has tested me many times over the years. And subsequently, I’ve turned down millions of dollars in business. Nothing is worth selling your soul for. And every time I made that difficult decision, a better opportunity would show up. That’s the reward.
Honor your ideal client profile. Not only in what they do, their industry, size, or market, but in WHO they are, as a person.
Do they possess the ideal characteristics that align with who you want to work with? If not, your relationship, integrity, and reputation; even your legacy, is bound to be compromised.
If you want to build a business and career you hate, just work with customers you can’t stand.
Get Sales Tough – Hold Your Customers Accountable
Salespeople say it’s tough selling against a pandemic, everyone’s in a holding pattern and no one has any budget?
I call BS. Sell WITH the pandemic. Especially today, many companies have more discretionary budgets, with millions of dollars saved on expense accounts and travel. It’s the salesperson’s responsibility to uncover how their customers buy today, so that you can align it with how you need to serve and sell.
Here’s the real deal:
What is your measurable value if you’re just telling people what they want to hear or if you’re scared to ask certain questions in fear of losing an opportunity? And if this is how you’re selling, when you get to the other side of the sale, and deliver your service, what are you going to find? Two very unhappy, disappointed, and frustrated people.
You’re the expert. That’s why they’re hiring you.
So, do your job.
Push back on what they’re asking, as well as their perception of you, your product, or industry.
Don’t drop your price. It looks desperate. Instead, have them tell you the implication of not buying from you now, and what would make THEM a great customer.
Challenge them why the budget is even a consideration compared to the ROI and results they need today.
Most importantly, ask the tough questions. Make people uncomfortable. Some salespeople go so far as to piss people off. (Customers will actually respect you more for asking the tougher questions that no one else is.)
This is what customers want today. No. This is what they need from you.
Salespeople have the most important job in the company. They are the spokesperson who represents every company and what every customer needs to hear. The Truth. That’s why the best salespeople seek to serve instead of seeking to sell.
Never compromise your values, your ideal client profile (if you don’t have one, create one), and your style, content, product, service, and message in pursuit of a sale. That’s what makes you – you! If you surrender your-self to a sale, you’re bound to fail and wind up as another useless commodity in the eyes of your customers.
The greatest salespeople know when to walk away from a sale. After all, you’re either selling from integrity or selling from desperation. Sure it sounds tough to do today. Consider this. Every prospect is one of your teachers since they’ll always test your limits, as you do theirs.
The good news is, when you clean out all the clutter of poor opportunities, you create the space to attract the right opportunities to you.
PS – I was asked to cut this article down to 1,000 words. Clearly, I chose not to make any compromises ;-)
I’m personally taking on 10 coaching clients for my private practice. (I’ll never top coaching leaders, whether in a coach training course or one on one. It’s too much fun and way too rewarding!) If you’re interested, make sure we’re connected on LinkedIn, send me a note, or email me at KeithR@KeithRosen.com and we’ll schedule a call to see if there’s a fit.