Selling with purpose: The mindset of high-performing sales people

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Top sellers demonstrate the same mindsets as each other, and one of the key drivers for successful sales people is purpose

We are entering a period of change and uncertainty in politics, culture and business. In this climate organisations are increasingly looking to their salespeople to make the difference. In The Salesperson’s Secret Code, the world’s most successful salespeople describe the mindset that allowed them to keep on selling around the globe. Perhaps for the first time the inner life of the salesperson is given equal attention to their outer life, revealing the beliefs and systems of thinking that together bring about the kind of person who outsells the competition time and time again.

The five levels of The Management Shift can also be mapped to the area of sales. At Level 1 a dominant mindset is 'Lifeless' and not much gets done as people are too depressed to do anything and there is a lot of fear and blame present. At Level 2 the individual mindset is 'Reluctant' and people do the minimum they can get away with just to get a pay cheque.

At Level 3 the individual's mindset is 'Controlled', leadership style is based on traditional command and control, employees are micromanaged and they do what they are told to do. A fundamental shift in performance, innovation and engagement happens when a critical mass of individuals move from Level 3 to Level 4. The dominant mindset among employees becomes 'Enthusiastic', power and authority are distributed, there is a strong teamwork ethos and employees feel purposeful and passionate about their work.

Employees at Level 4 can occasionally reach Level 5 where the individual's mindset becomes 'Limitless'. At this level anything seems possible to achieve, people work on big problems that affect humanity and produce amazing innovations.

Interestingly, these five levels of an individual mindset can be mapped to sales drivers, as shown below. At Level 1 people sell things out of desperation. At Level 2 selling is a means to an end; people sell professionally to get by. At Level 3 selling is aggressive, controlled, and money-driven. It does not matter if a customer wants or needs a particular product or service; it is all about meeting sales targets. This may work short term but not in the long term.

Then after the Big Shift at Level 4, selling is all about fulfilling purpose, both for salespeople and clients. Finding meaning in selling a particular product/service that serves the purpose/need of a client is the main driver. Salespeople often feel proud of helping to meet someone's needs. As a result sales performance, volume and revenue increases. This is well described in Lisa Earle McLeod's book Selling with Noble Purpose.

At Level 5 selling becomes focused on providing both purpose but also value to the client. Salespeople have no problem walking away from the deal if the product/service is not right for a client. With this and Level 4 mindset they get more recommendations, more trust, repeat business, less need for advertising, higher sales volume etc.

The levels of individual mindset mapped to sales drivers

As in other areas of business, sales performance is closely related to mindset. At Level 4 and 5 selling is focused on win/win, it is more humanised and more profitable (especially long term). Salespeople at Levels 4 and 5 become catalysts for social change. When their mindset is anchored at lower levels they may experience some short-term gain, but this is not sustainable and is narrow-minded.

It is time now to humanise all aspects of business operations, including sales, to create positive ripples for salespeople, their organisations, their customers and society at large.

Vlatka Hlupic is professor of business and management at the University of Westminster and CEO of The Management Shift Consulting. Ben Laker is senior lecturer in operations management at the University of Kent and co-founder and director of The Centre for High Performance

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