In Arthur Miller’s 1949 play Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman embodies the common American salesperson of his time. Much has changed since Miller brought this character to life, yet the overly macho way people talk about sales remains the same—and it’s time for a change.
The language of sales has always struck me as aggressive in its tone, filled with clichés about battle, power and winning at all costs. Common phrases in this genre include:
* Expand their (the customer’s) pain
* Rational drowning
* Leave nothing on the field
* Destroy the competition
And the worst of all:
* No is that much closer to yes.
This is all chest-thumping nonsense.
Even a recent Google search of “motivational sales quotes” yielded these old-timers:
“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” Bruce Lee
“Accept the challenges so you feel the exhilaration of victory.” Gen. George S. Patton
You get the point. Yet the reality of sales, in my experience, relies on analogies far more pastoral in nature.Great salespeople know it is about action and reflection, being vulnerable and being curious. As they say interested versus interesting. We need these phrases to be the standard:
* Sowing seeds
* Tending to the field
* Cultivating relationships
And—wait for it…
* Accepting no and moving on to greener pastures
At JMReid Group, we have seen the evolution of sales—from communicating features and benefits to creating value and bringing insight, yet the macho language and mindset persist.
In order to shift to a more successful mindset, we need to understand what our clients want. They don’t want to be worn-down and tackled into a buying decision—they want to communicate their need and understand the value of your offering. The characteristics of a trusted business advisor correlate far less to a middle linebacker and far more to someone who listens, demonstrates empathy and puts others’ interests above their own. The language here is calm, reflective and focused on the long-term.
As it turned out, Willy Loman was a sensitive soul. If he was around now, that quality would have made him the success he dreamed about 70 years ago.