For the majority of my career I’ve had the word “sales” in my title, but it wasn’t always that way. I remember when the transition happened. I was working at a company called Mediaplex in early 2000. This was the peak of the Internet bubble. I had just started working there as an Account Manager, and my first account was The Digital Edge, the digital division of Y&R. I became friendly with everyone on that account. I would spend 2 days a week in their offices training them, and getting to know them. The time I spent with her was invaluable. After only a few months I grew the account from 1 to 13 clients. My good work didn’t go unnoticed, and management moved me into sales.
But here’s where things get tricky.
So there I was, a newly minted “salesperson, ” but truthfully I had no idea what I had done to close those deals. Really, I was clueless. I hadn’t tried to sell a thing. I just “account managed.” but when I look back I can see that my client trusted me, and we delivered really good work.
I wasn’t selling …so I sold.
As I migrated into my new sales role, I got really excited about the possibility of making more money through commission – so I was a beast. I decided that I was going to close more business than they’d ever seen. So I would cold call for hours, schedule meeting and pitch like a madman. I remember sitting in the office late into the night on Thanksgiving weekend binding my Powerpoint presentations, when it dawned on me that none of my hard work was working! I knew that I had been the most successful at selling when I wasn’t “selling” but that would freak me out. I’m a salesperson, I would think – I have to be “selling,” right? Wrong. No matter how hard I worked at sales, I never sold as well as I did when I was an Account Manager. So what was going on?
There are (in broad terms) three sections of our brain that process information. The oldest portion of our brain the reptilian portion of our brain is where “Fight or Flight” resides, then the limbic system, where emotional processing happens. We feel joy and sadness here. Then the final outer portion of our brain is the neocortex. This is where we process big ideas, and do most of our heaving thinking. Pitches are pitched to prospects from the modern, and smartER – part of the brain, the neocortex. But they are received by the old reptilian portion of their brain. You’re probably thinking: what does this have to do with sales?
When you’re an over prepared hard charging sales person, you may sell something, sometimes. But you will never, and I mean never be as successful as a salesperson that is aware of the way people process information. When you’re prepared for your sales meeting all of those details, and numbers, and technical jargon about your software and how it will properly pair with your prospects inner working – you cannotpresent that first. You need to know all of those things, for sure, but lead with it at your own risk. It won’t work.
When you first walk into a room everyone’s brain at it’s most basic level- is trying to figure out if they should have sex with you, or eat you. They want to know where you are on the food chain. They will make these decisions based off the most minor details about you. The way you dress, how you speak to them, your eye contact, and your demeanor. Can they smell fear on you? Do you hold the attention of their boss? Do you command the room? All of these decisions happen in a fraction of a second. Sometimes you’ve already won the deal before you say a word, and sometimes you’ve already lost. If you want to learn more about this phenomenon read the book by Oren Klaff’s book called Pitch Anything. I highly recommend it.
Storytelling, dreaming, and evoking emotion and powerful feelings of connection will always win over tactics, technology and numbers in sales. Appeal to emotions, reveal intrigue and speak to them the way they want to be spoken to, not the way you want to speak to them.
The #1 Mistake Most Salespeople make is that they pitch the details and tactics, not the story behind the “why.” Because You cannot successfully pitch ideas formulated in your NeoCortex that will resonate with your prospects reptilian brain. Stop selling. Selling makes you feel gross.