My Philosophy on Selling (and how it's changed over the years)

A few days ago, I had two Discovery Sessions (or as some would say, Sales Calls) with people I’ve never met before. Both were referred to me—one by a former client, the other by a colleague whom I greatly respect. 

There have been plenty of days in the past where I’ve had multiple sales calls on the calendar, but this was my first time having 2 with people I’d never even met before on the same day.

2 years ago, when I first started my business, I would have spent my entire morning—and most of the previous afternoon—preparing. Drilling myself on the questions to ask. Running through the “sales framework” that I would work through during our conversation, over and over and over. I would know exactly what I wanted to ask, what I wanted to get them to understand, and every step I needed to navigate to successfully usher them across the closing line. Memorization, practice, repetition, memorization, practice, repetition.

But this morning was nothing like that.

Instead, I sat down and wrote in my journal. I wrote about my intentions for these calls, how I wanted to treat the people I’d be talking to, and how I felt.

Here’s what I wrote.

“Today I have two sales calls with people I’ve never met, both through referrals. That’s a first.

Neither of these may turn into engagements and that’s totally okay! My top concern isn’t closing a project at all costs here. No sirree. My top concern is making a genuine connection with these people and helping them make the best decision for them, based on where they’re at and where they want to go.

I have two intentions: to connect, and to help.

To connect, I have to start with love. I must be myself, imperfect and unique. I must be fully present in the here and now. I have to genuinely care about the person I’m speaking with. Care cannot be faked. I must show genuine interest and be emotionally accessible. That means being honest, open, and forthcoming. 

To help, I have to understand their needs and desires. I have to truly understand their problem in order to help them begin solving it. That means asking thoughtful questions and listening intently to what they have to say. Directing my undivided attention onto learning about their perspective. Hearing not just what they’re saying, but also what they’re communicating—which also includes what they aren’t saying. It means asking them to clarify their statements, going one level deeper, digging into intentions and details and motivations.

I’m going to start with a huge grin and a question. I’m going to bring undeniably infectious positive energy to the call because that’s who I am. And I'm going to do whatever I can to make them feel comfortable being who they are.”

Sales can be complicated and stressful. But I believe that, if it is, we are the ones who made it complicated and stressful. Sales doesn’t have to be that way.

At the end of the day, it’s just two people choosing to spend a bit of their finite time on this Earth exploring whether they can help each other get some more fulfillment out of their lives.

When you know exactly what you’re selling, what kind of problems it solves, and perhaps even more importantly, what you’re not selling, the rest fades away. There’s no need to convince, to finesse, or to persuade. There’s only the need to communicate clearly and honestly, and to listen.

Sales is like any relationship in our lives. It takes two to tango. It doesn’t matter how well you individually dance if your partner is getting dragged behind you across the room. As much as we sometimes wish this wasn’t true, it’s simply not up to you whether this friendship takes root, or whether this first date turns into a second. That will only happen if both sides are in agreement that doing so will give each of them more of what they want.

Now, that might trouble some—after all, we human beings crave control of their environment and outcomes. But recently I’ve begun to see it differently. This knowledge is freedom. 

It’s not your responsibility to close this opportunity. Because you can’t. Only the two of you can, together. 

Only if it makes sense for both sides—personally, practically, and financially—will this work out.

Your job is simply to figure out if this is an opportunity that makes sense for you, and to give them whatever information they need in order to answer that same question for themselves. Do whatever you can to help the other person make the best decision for them

And it doesn’t hurt to have a little fun along the way. Who knows, you might even make a friend.

Pure intentions, a clear mind, and undivided attention for the other party. That’s the recipe.