Sales, Part 1 of 3
In an intercultural environment, nearly everything looks different—teaming, communication, goal-setting, conflict resolution—you name it. Sales is no exception. Selling in a mono-cultural environment is one thing. In an intercultural environment, selling can look like something else entirely. And it should!
To most people, hearing the word "sales" brings to mind more of a caricature than reality. That is true whether we are talking about pitching options and ideas or actually providing a product or service for money. The word "salesman" is all too often accompanied by adjectives like "shady," "shifty," and "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 ideas, goods or services is what you do for a living – then "sales" or “selling” is the wrong label for what you are trying to do.
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 posits that customer engagement often does not work because of how people approach the sales interaction. Potential buyers and sellers both think they can see through the other—transcending outward appearance and small talk to discern what the other truly wants. As a result they tend to talk past one another, taking turns with their own monologues and not really listening.
Morgen proposes that we change the name of the trade, as well as the spirit behind it. We are not "selling" or striving to become "salespeople." We aspire to become buying decision-making coaches.
In other words, “sales conversations” become about more than just what customers want to buy. We need to become attuned to how customers prefer to go through the complex process of looking at all the options and considerations, the pros and cons, and working through fears and hopes they may have, to eventually end up making a decision that is most beneficial for them, as well as for the salesperson.
How you become proficient at this kind of “decision-making coaching” is the question. The benefits are clear: if someone is a successful decision-making coach, over time they will earn trust. They will become a trusted advisor whom clients come back to again and again, and recommend freely to others.
Of course there is no guarantee this is a conducive way of selling for every context in every single market. For example, in some situations you will not have the opportunity to meet with people a second time. Speaking generally though, with a little tailoring of coaching style this approach works well nearly everywhere.
If becoming a buying decision-making coach is more important to you than just "making a sale," your clients will notice. Your strengths as a salesperson will be magnified and they will see you as a trusted consultant, rather than someone just superficially trying to get something out of them.
This coaching style of sales is especially important when interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds, because what is in your mind and what is in their mind can vary widely. There is a good chance that your most natural way of pitching an option will miss the mark of their priorities and mindset. Learning how to put your cross-cultural customers at the center and genuinely trying to help them in culturally savvy ways can make the difference in landing a sale.
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 increase significantly.
One of the ways KnowledgeWorkx helps organizations develop sales teams into buying decision-making coaching teams is by utilizing a tool called the Everything DiSC® Sales Profile. Our next article in this series, "The Psychometric Spotlight: How Personality Informs Buying", discusses how this powerful tool works.
In a third article, we finish the series by highlighting Inter-Cultural Intelligence and how to unlock often-overlooked cultural doorways in customer engagement.
The Everything DiSC® Sales Profile and Inter-Cultural Intelligence together equip teams to shine what we call “the two key spotlights” of personality and culture, understanding and shaping customer interactions effectively in any cultural context.
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.