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December 4, 2016

Sales and Shattering the Stereotypes

When we think of "selling," what comes to mind first is probably more caricature than reality
Sales and Shattering the Stereotypes

Within the context of an intercultural environment, nearly everything tends to look different—teaming, communication, goal-setting, conflict resolution—you name it. Sales is no exception. Selling in a monocultural environment is one thing. In an intercultural environment, selling can look like something else entirely. And it should!

To most people, the word "sales"—whether in the sense of presenting to a group of people a number of options to decide upon, or in the sense of exchanging an actual product or service for money—what comes to mind first is probably more caricature than reality. The word "salesman" is all too often accompanied by adjectives like "shady," "shifty," or "slick." Some of the negative connotations are undeserved, but some have been collected for good reason.

In recent years, there have been a number of people writing about the idea that if you are someone "in sales"—i.e., if selling goods or services or ideas is actually what you are attempting to do for a living, then "sales" is a misnomer. It is a misappropriated descriptor, the wrong label, for what you are in fact trying to accomplish.

In her book Dirty Little Secrets: Why Buyers Can’t Buy and Sellers Can’t Sell and What You Can Do About It, Sharon Drew Morgen develops the idea that "selling" is a poor name for what you are really doing when pitching an idea, a service, or a product. She posits that "buyers can't buy and sellers can't sell" because there is this constant misalignment—it is a double monologue between the potential buyer and the seller. Perhaps they each believe they can see through the other—transcending outward appearance and small talk enough to discern what each other truly think and want, deep down. But whatever the case, they tend to talk right past one another, no real listening—just one-way talking, but taking turns.

Morgen proposes that we change the name of the trade, as well as the spirit behind it: We are not "selling"; we are not striving to become "salespeople." We are aspiring buying decision-making coaches. If someone is a successful buying decision-making coach, that someone will also over time gain the trust of his or her clients. If you gain trust for the long-term, then the next time a client wants to buy a similar product, or is asked to recommend a supplier—the client will turn to you: The buying decision-making coach. The trusted advisor.

It is a viable and impactful combination: (1) Pursuing a style that makes you a buying decision-making coach, as well as (2) the reality that in the process of that pursuit, you are also likely becoming a trusted advisor to your clients.

Of course there is no 100% guarantee that this combo is a conducive way of selling for every single trade in any context. (E.g., In some situations, you will not even have the opportunity to meet with people for a second time.) Speaking generally, though, if all those "salespeople" committed to develop themselves as buying decision-making coaches, then, at least the reputation of "salespeople" is guaranteed to be redeemed!

Most would agree that the stereotypical reputation of salespeople is not stellar. The general consensus is that salespeople tend to be shrewd and sly, that they sell with self-interest as a top priority—either trumping or undermining any genuine interest in their customers. For all we know [assume], a salesman would deliberately select certain products over others because one of the products will garner more commission.

A caricature artist exaggerates flaws, intentionally making his subject (and the subjects flaws) "larger than life"—so much so that it is not meant to be a true representation. Not all salespeople are truly shady or self-serving! But most good jokes are based on at least an inkling of truth, and admittedly, the majority of salespeople are not known for keeping the buyer's best interests in mind.

Caricatures can also work the other way: Especially if he is struck by her beauty or influenced by a pre-existing friendship, an artist might represent his subject favorably when drawing her caricature—highlighting beautiful facial symmetry or a becoming hairstyle—because he is endeared to her and truly thinks she is either flawless or her flaws are insignificant. It all depends on the relationship between them.

If becoming a buying decision-making coach is more important to you than conventional "selling," then your clients are not going to view you (or other salespeople) in light of the stereotypes. If you are genuinely pursuing a relationship with your clients as their trusted advisor, they will not continue to feel like you are superficially trying to get something out of them—not when you are evidently working to assist them. If these aims are priorities for your organization's entire salesforce—the amount of trust in your salespeople (and in your organization as a whole) is going to significantly increase.

(And maybe if all salespeople were trained and inspired to think and work toward that end, the stereotypes would fade and cease altogether!)

One of the ways KnowledgeWorkx partners with organizations to develop sales teams into buying decision-making coaching teams is by utilizing the Everything DiSC sales profile. Everything DiSC aligns beautifully with the goals of becoming a trusted advisor and a buying decision-making coach. It is a pivotal step toward self-awareness and self-management, as well as others-awareness and adaptability. E-DiSC helps you examine your own selling style, in terms of over 150 different preference points. The third generation of DiSC and those preference points help you to determine what is important for you as a person in general, and more specifically, as a "salesperson" (and, ultimately, as a buying decision-making coach and trusted advisor for your clients).

For instance, if you discover through E-DiSC that you have a "High C" sales profile, then you may recognize in yourself a high propensity to emphasize details about the product you are pitching. If you find out you are a "High S," it will make sense that you tend to focus instead on the efficiency surrounding the product (and its potential buyer).

Realizing how your personal makeup influences and informs your "selling style"—that is imperative to the development of the competencies necessary for your becoming a trusted advisor and buying decision-making coach. Your E-DiSC report might reveal you to be a "High I"—definitely more focused on the relational side, cautious to make decisions, not wanting to feel pressured. At the same time, your "High I" results might indicate to you and to your mentors that you may need an occasional nudge to act, to follow through, to move forward.

On the opposite side of the coin, the E-DiSC sales profile can evaluate "buying style," looking at the buying styles that correspond to different behavioral styles. The E-DiSC sales profile opens your eyes to see—not through or past your clients, but to see them! You can learn to discern with increasingly greater accuracy what your clients do and don't prefer, especially from you—as their trusted advisor.

From the "big picture" point of view, the E-DiSC sales profile is brilliant in bringing that whole development process to life. First of all, it makes you as a salesperson examine your own natural tendencies to sell in a certain way. Secondly, it helps you understand that the buyer is receiving your words and approach in a certain way. If you do want to become a buying decision-making coach, you must be able to adjust your natural style in order to come alongside the buying style of the buyer. So that is why the E-DiSC assessment is so very much in line with these goals—helping you grow into a buying decision-making coach, and helping to make you a more trusted advisor to the buyer.

There does also seem to be a strong correlation of relevance and potential mutual benefit between the E-DiSC assessment and these two books—Morgen's buying decision-making coach approach in Dirty Little Secrets as well as The Trusted Advisor from Maister, Green, and Galford.

Do recognize that E-DiSC is not beneficial only for the title-bearing executives. It can benefit C-level leaders profoundly, but arguably, the most powerful impact of this approach would come through focusing on key account managers, "normal" people who are interfacing with their "normal" clients on a day-to-day basis, perhaps year after year. Or people who are involved working with large projects (i.e., with potential for upselling), and who have great opportunities for long-term relationship-building with clients.

Again, even (especially!) for the "regular Joe" key account manager, the Everything DiSC approach can be an incredibly powerful tool and a worthy investment—whether at a personal level (one-to-one coaching), or as a group—key account managers or a consultative selling team could participate in a workshop (typically a 2-day workshop is ideal, or a 4-6 –month coaching journey could be highly effective).

A forthcoming article will delve more deeply into Inter-Cultural Intelligence and how it factors into selling in intercultural contexts—particularly the ways that the Three Colors of Worldview and 12 Dimensions of Culture may influence either miscommunication in selling, or appropriate communication in selling.

Read part 2, "Discovering the Cultural Side of Sales"


Quickly becoming the global preferred choice for Inter-Cultural Intelligence development, KnowledgeWorkx promotes mutual understanding of other cultures and perspectives in the workplace, and helps teams to develop the intercultural capacity necessary to thrive in a globalized world.

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Last modified on Sunday, 18 December 2016 06:08

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