Customer Experience News & Trends

Why your salespeople need a kick in the pants

“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the pants may be the best thing in the world for you.” Walt Disney wasn’t necessarily talking to salespeople when he made that statement, but it’s a good message for them. 

Two categories

Salespeople fall into two categories: those who have suffered humiliation and those who will. They can reduce the difficulty by placing their egos in check when prospects or customers deliver a wake-up kick.

Seven stages

The swift kick of awareness may unfold in seven ways:

  1. Comfortable oblivion. Some salespeople aren’t in touch with themselves or their shortcomings until a customer administers a rude awakening. They believe they are great sales leaders. The kick they experience usually comes as a severe shock.
  2. Startling sting. Getting kicked hurts. The degree of pain usually correlates directly with the salesperson’s degree of obliviousness about his or her leadership flaws.
  3. Change choice. Once the pain of the kick diminishes, the choice confronting the salesperson emerges: reject the insight that accompanies the kick, or realize that you aren’t perfect and may need to change.
  4. Humility or arrogance. Salespeople who accept the need to change show humility, an essential characteristic of a strong leader. Those who refuse to accept the need to act differently will become even more arrogant than before their wake-up call.
  5. Becoming complacent. Sometimes salespeople get complacent and skip the basics. Then a prospect or a customer delivers a fast kick. You can never stand still. You’re either going forward or backwards.
  6. Overreacting to criticism. When you encounter criticism, don’t go into a reactionary mode. Instead listen and ask opened-ended questions that forces a customer to deliver more than a “yes” or “no” answer.
  7. Failing to articulate value. Value articulation is the ability to discuss your product or service from the customer’s perspective rather than yours. You must be able to bridge the gap between what your product or service is and what it actually does for customers. Failing to do so may result in some severe customer reactions.

The value of pain

Pain educates salespeople much more effectively than comfort. When something hurts, salespeople may work overtime to avoid the source of pain in the future.

Salespeople who want to benefit from occasional kicks should heed seven tips:

  1. Focus on the long game. See your kick in the pants as a speed bump you cross on the way to a more successful future. This valuable learning experience will soon be in your rear view mirror.
  2. Learn from your feelings. Ask yourself, “What information is this customer trying to give me?” What is the lesson this feeling is trying to teach me?”
  3. Remember, discomfort equals growth. Salespeople who never venture beyond their comfort zones don’t grow. Discomfort may lead to self-development and growth.
  4. Broaden your view of courage. Having courage means moving bravely ahead when you’re discouraged or fearful. For sales leaders that means being open and receptive to change. Once you accept the facts about your flaws, you can correct them. If you refuse to learn the lessons a butt kick can provide, a harder and more painful kick is sure to follow.
  5. Don’t be oblivious to yourself. An out-of-control ego may work against you. To grow as a leader, engage in self-exploration and discovery.
  6. Be your own critic. Manage how you say and do things with astuteness and deliberation. Focus on using your sales skills for the best results.
  7. Stay present. A kick hurts. Don’t shrink from the pain. Accept it. Learn from it. Make it work for you. Use it to become a more effective salesperson.

Confident humility

Good salespeople have just the right degree of confidence. They aren’t overconfident or pigheaded. They make clear decisions without fear. They treat everyone with respect, following the first law of leadership, which is “It’s not about you.”

They are always ready to kick their own butts, asking the tough questions: Are you playing it too safe? Is that tendency limiting your growth? How can you be a more courageous leader? Posing and answering challenging questions gives every good salesperson opportunities to become a great salesperson.

Adapted from: A Leadership Kick in the Ass, by Bill Treasurer, the chief encouragement officer at Giant Leap Consulting, which helps people and organizations become more courageous.

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