According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s data, sales is the largest profession in the country, and yet only 18% of consumers have a positive view of salespeople. On this episode of The Small Business Show, host Jim Fitzpatrick is joined by Matt Easton, sales consultant and founder of Easton University, an online education platform for sales professionals, to discuss the counter-productive habits responsible for this statistic and the principles needed to overcome the public’s negative perception of the career.
Salespeople lack the educational and institutional support provided to other occupations. While over 50% of college graduates will work in the profession at some point, only 3% of schools offer an actual sales program. Those who work in sales are also often taught to be embarrassed by their job, as many are unable to shake the negative stereotypes associated with their work. Easton explains that these obstacles make it difficult for employees to pursue further training or any form of career development.
However, with the right set of traits, those in the field can avoid typecasting and challenge the narrative that salespeople are sleazy, untrustworthy and even lazy.
Dishonesty versus Curiosity
Sales professionals often feel pressured into portraying themselves as the most excited or intelligent person in the room. “We need to drop the enthusiasm,” explains Easton. “The more excited we are, the more we’re coming across as disingenuous.” Many unqualified sales educators are guilty of teaching their students to take on these dishonest traits. However, the most important trait for any career is curiosity, explains Easton. Curious sales professionals ask honest questions such as, “Can you give me an example? Can you explain that for me? Can you walk me through [this]?” when speaking to clients. By being sincere, “I genuinely sound like I want to hear your answers because I do,” he continues.
Excitement versus Calmness
Even outside of sales, when conversations lack energy, people begin to feel uncomfortable. Eventually, the need to create excitement creeps in, even if only superficial. But Easton warns that this is also a trap. Because of the negative stereotypes around sales professionals, clients will always be able to pick up on manufactured enthusiasm. “If you’re looking for how to sound…it’s not the super excited tonality,” he explains. “You’ve gotta slow the process down in the beginning.” Rather than trying to convey energy through their speech, salespeople should maintain a calm and measured tone. This principle holds true regardless of whether the passion is sincere or artificial. “Whether you are just in it to get the sale…or you’re the most genuine, it sounds the same to the customer,” adds Easton.
Instant Gratification Oriented versus Next Step Oriented (NSO)
Many in the field pressure their clients, hoping their barriers will eventually yield underneath an onslaught of aggressive sales tactics. This is because they are convinced that if the customer is not persuaded immediately, they never will be. Unfortunately, even though educators often recommend taking any and all steps necessary to close a deal, using pressure in any exchange with a prospective client is one of the worst decisions a professional can make. “This is why only 18% of Americans think there’s any worth to salespeople at all,” remarks Easton. Rather than forcing the client to make their decision immediately, at all costs, he recommends overcoming this fear and planning for the future. “…go through your life just being NSO” he continues. “…constantly thinking in terms of ‘I want to help this person, and if they’re not ready to move right now, I’m going to do everything skillfully possible to help them make that decision…but at the same time, I’m not putting a finite expiration date on my relationship with you.”
By adopting these traits and ditching their old habits, sales professionals can shake the negative stereotypes attached to their career of choice. It will take the work of everyone in the field to recast the role salespeople play in business, but with enough dedication, that 18% mentioned at the beginning may become 98%. To learn more from Easton, visit Easton University’s website.