Lessons from unexpected places

I had a Public workshop in Northern California last week and was wiped out when we finished on Thursday afternoon. I got to the airport in the late afternoon, excited to get home, finally got on my flight that was nearly 3 hours delayed, and sat next to a rather chatty woman. She asked me what I did, but because I was so exhausted, I gave her a short, lame answer, “I train salespeople.”

I thought that would scare her off but she was actually interested and asked me to tell her more.  I didn’t have a great answer because I had zero energy, so I did what I do best when I don’t have an answer…I asked a question back, “What do YOU do?”  She told me all about her business: She owned a jewelry design company. She went on and on about it.  And I became interested.

About 10 minutes in, she said, “Selling my product is different than the way you train salespeople.” I thought, “huh?”  At first, I wanted to fire back something like, “Isn’t it all the same stuff?!”  But I didn’t, only because I was too tired.  Instead, I wanted to know where she was coming from and asked her what type of salesperson she would want to buy from, if she was buying jewelry.

She thought for a few seconds and started to rattle off a few things.

Her checklist

“Someone who is honest, trustworthy and a good listener. Someone who doesn’t talk too much trying to convince me how great their jewelry is. Someone who doesn’t have all the answers. Someone who cares about people.”  And she paused and said in a very soft, reflective tone, “Yeah, someone who cares…”.

But then she continued with her previous thoughts, “You don’t teach those things in sales training.”   She then lectured me on the things she was taught in training years ago when she worked for a large company, “It’s all interrogation, chest pounding.” She ended by saying, “I’m not a salesperson,” and, “ever wonder why everyone hates salespeople?”

Funny, the words she used to describe the kind of person she would want to buy from actually described John Scanlon, the CEO I talk about in my book.  And non-coincidently, she used all the words we put on the flip chart on the morning of day 1 of the workshop when we go around the room and ask everyone to describe the “best” salesperson they know.

I get reminded all the time about the things the training industry gave us, why it doesn’t work, and what it will take to actually change things.  I am reminded why I do what I do all the time.

I am less interested in story for the sake of storytelling, but rather, it’s the affect of story that interests me most. Story brings all those words to life.

Categories: Selling, Story

Author:Ben Zoldan

Demystifying what the most inspiring people do to influence change, Co-founder, Story Leaders and Co-author, What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story

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