There is a lot written about sales and everyone who has sold something, anything, anytime, seems to have an opinion about selling, the sales process, the closing, sales playbooks, magic formula, spotting/nurturing sales talent, cold calling to sell, no cold calling to sell, sell big, sell small, sell anything, methodologies - like SPIN/SPAN/HM/consultative and lately Sales 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 etc. And to boot, everyone who has an opinion seems to want to write a blog!!

So why am I writing another sales blog? First, because a dear friend asked me to and second because I find that the one crucial area not covered well in most of what I have read thus far, is "Sales Attitude"! So here goes. Note: All my comments pertain to business to business sales, which is where I have spent most of my career.  

From being a rookie salesman years ago to being an accomplished Sales and business leader over my career, I have constantly heard, read and sometimes (rarely!) used these words in dealing with sales team members:  "You need to have a winning attitude"; "Never say die, never say never"; "Keep following up"; "Keep going until you win" and finally this absolutely abysmal gem made famous by Alec Baldwin's Blake from Glengarry Glen Ross - "Always Be Closing"!

Now, after having seen and experienced a lot, both wins and losses, good/great successful sales teams and not-so-successful ones and having been through all the ritualistic jargon, I have formed some opinions about winning in sales that have stuck with me. Some of these might seem like myth shattering depending on where you stand, but do sit with me as I explain:

  1. Sales is not about winning the deal, it is about winning the customer!

In other words, winning the deal in hand is a myopic view of a "win" while the focus and attention given to the longer term needs of the customer should take precedence over anything that is geared to just win the deal in hand. The old adage of bird in hand is misplaced in the context of sales, I would rather let go of the first deal, if I or my company's offering is not the best choice to solve the customer's current problem. However, I would have won the customer, in that they would respect not just my candor but my respect for their ultimate win - which is solving their problem.

2.  Sales is not about bagging elephants, or picking low hanging fruit!

In fact it is not about bagging any animal, or picking any fruit. The sheer idea of calling customers animals or fruit abhors me! Customers are well informed, intelligent, knowledgeable, articulate decision makers. They expect respect, knowledge and consideration of their circumstances, collaboration with their teams and a genuine interest in solving their problems from whoever is pitching to them. Anything else, and they quickly discern the person pitching as a phony, the pitch as flaky or a bombastic, embellished claim likely to fail at solving their problem. An attitude that is born out of the thinking that you are out to pick low hanging fruit (read small value, quick wins) before going out to bag elephants (read large value, bigger sized customers) is wrong and likely to fail from the get go.

3. Sales is not about closing quickly, or sprinting to a finish!

On the contrary the most winning attitude is one that thinks through what winning means for the customer. The process of selling well involves a close where the customer is left with a feeling of accomplishment, not of having been taken! If a winning attitude means, leaving a losing feeling on the other end of that win, it is the worst win one could conceive of. The concept of "always be closing" is dead and replaced by what some have known and been doing all along which is "always be helping"!

4.  Learn first, pitch much later!

Much is written about how buyers have changed in today's digital age. Their knowledge about competitive offerings, alternate ways and approaches to solving problems and their degree of preparation ahead of a sales person meeting them the first time, has all changed so much! Yet, selling techniques teach today's sales folks the same old methods of selling - understand, inform, handle objections, close....nothing could be farther from reality.  Approaching and engaging with decision makers/buyers in the digital age requires a lot more research and preparation, networking within and outside the customer organization to figure out the "real" breadth and expanse of the problem you are proposing to solve, a good, candid assessment of whether or how your offering actually solves the problem etc. even before asking for that first meeting. Humility and acceptance of the fact that one does not know everything there is to know about the customer or the problem at hand, is the first step towards being well prepared to win. That humility is an essential attitude to have as a sales person, is often forgotten. Under the mistaken notion that sales is all about bravado, being confident and pitching with absolute impunity, sales folks often come across as cocky, full of themselves, know-alls that put themselves and their companies in jeopardy with that attitude.

5. Sell with the attitude that you want to win the customer's trust first - revenues, profits follow!

ROI or Return on Investment is a term most sellers use to embellish their pitches and perhaps the nuts and bolts of "winning a deal" deserve determination of and outlining of what the ROI may be. However, for "winning a customer" what matters is the ROTI or Return on Trust Invested, harder to quantify, and worse, typically not articulated openly at any point in time, but felt consistently over a period of time. More so, seen quite clearly in a growing stream of revenue, repeat business and consistent profits from the relationship.

In today's world, where customer success is  clearly the most significant predictor of revenue and profitability for a business and measurements like NPS (net promoter score), LTV (lifetime value) etc. have become de rigor for most successful businesses. Sales is still the function that determines customer success from the first moment of interaction between two businesses and through its life time. And the sales team's attitude towards winning, their understanding of what winning really means, and their humility, candor and determination to customer success is what will make a difference.    

This post has been written by our Guest Sales Author Sudhir Kulkarni (President, Digital Solutions at Xoriant)  for (Sales AI). If you wish to share your Sales Stories with others, please write to us for access:

Relatas is the Sales AI platform that successful B2B sales teams use for Accurate Sales Forecasting using Relationship Intelligence and AI. Relatas helps Sales Professionals sell better and faster, with NO-DATA-ENTRY & helping Sales Managers reduce revenue loss and better sales forecasting.