by Tynesia Boyea-Robinson
If you’re anything like me, you hate the idea of being a salesperson. Even though my friends affectionately call me “Faceman” (after the suave and slippery character from The A-Team), I never took it as a compliment. To me, being a salesperson always conjured images of sleazy tricksters who pressure and hustle people into buying things they neither need nor want.
However, after raising millions of dollars and selling services to countless Fortune 500 companies, I have come to grips with the fact that not only am I a salesperson, but I am also pretty good at it. These are a few tips that have helped me embrace selling:
1. Don’t sell
This advice may seem odd given the topic, but I never walk into a meeting with the intention of selling anything. My main goal is to understand the other person’s needs and find ways to help them. I love Jeffrey Gitomer’s “Little Red Book of Selling“ because it is all about providing value to clients and prospects before they buy a thing. As Gitomer says, “Become known as a resource, not a salesperson.”
I walk into meetings with the intention of helping others, and I always believe in what I have to offer. If you do not believe in the product or service you are representing, then you should find another product or service. That may seem radical, but it makes a huge difference. When you believe in what you’re offering, you are providing an opportunity for someone else to participate in something you care about. Authentic passion is infectious and attracts prospects and clients.
3. Offer the best solution (even if it’s not yours)
One of my board members teased me once that I tell him the answer before he can ask the question. All too often, that’s how salespeople approach their meetings — the answer is always their product or service. But there are times when a prospect may not need what you have to offer. The key is to be knowledgeable enough to connect them to a solution that works best for them. While this may seem silly in the short term, in the long term it goes a long way to establish trust. If you look at each meeting as the beginning of a long-term relationship, you’ll easily secure future and repeat business because people believe you truly have their best interest at heart.
4. Meet the right person
In the book “The New Strategic Selling,” authors Miller and Heiman do a great job explaining how selling to organizations has become a lot more complex and often requires multiple stakeholders to get to “yes.” Many salespeople like to go to the person that is easiest to get to, but that person may not have the power or influence to close a deal. Miller and Heiman call this ideal contact the “economic buyer,” and you must work diligently to connect with this person in your organization if you want to build a strong book of business. This may take more work upfront, but it will pay off in the long run, because you will come into the organization with the air cover to make your solution a success.
While there are many other technical and tactical steps to being a strong salesperson, these four have made it a noble profession for me. So the next time my friends call me Faceman, I’ll just smile and happily play the part.
Tynesia Boyea Robinson is the CEO of Reliance Methods, which puts Americans to work by providing human capital strategy and placement solutions for clients like Walmart, the Carlyle Group, and the federal government. Tynesia serves on numerous boards and has published several articles, which have been featured in the Washington Post and in Leap of Reason. Education: Harvard MBA, Duke University EE & Comp Sci.