Old martial arts movies, including those of the sci-fi variety which have wise green aliens always have a scene where the student sits at the feet of the master and soaks up knowledge. Drinking in every word the teacher says, the intent is that one day the student will be able to "take the coin from the master's hand", which is a sure sign that the knowledge has passed down. The student then becomes the master and the circle is complete. For me, this is pretty much how I was trained to sell. None of my degrees are in selling and none of the two hundred or so university courses I have taken in my 25 years of school were on that subject. It was all taught from the master's lips. In my case, there were actually several masters.
One in particular used to sum up sales and selling succinctly. In his wise voice, he would swipe his monopoly mustache and say, "Josh, selling is nothing more and nothing less than changing someone's mind."
So there you have it. The sum total of my first decade of training in sales.
For some people, this is their apex. It is all they get. That is unfortunate, because for many of the several hundred sales reps I have taught, it amounts to walking up to a prospect and vomiting their entire knowledge base all over the target. As you can imagine, most people hate anything to do with vomit and being its target, no matter the context. Naturally, this makes for an unsuccessful sales person. Others get this and understand it, so instead they "turn on the charm" and walk in there like they were going to see their best friend at a luau. Using the force of their personality, they believe they can get the prospect to like them and buy. Sometimes this works. If you have a charismatic enough sales person, it may work fairly often, but it could work more often, and it doesn't.
Here's why: the personality of who you are selling controls how that prospect likes to be approached and sold to.
When sales people sell, they sell the way they like to be sold to. This is natural. People are inherently selfish in that sense. Their assumption is that everybody likes what they like and wants what they want. However, in reality, that could not be farther from the truth. To be more successful at selling, you must sell to the prospect they way they like to be sold to.
This is where being a chameleon is helpful when it comes to personality. The DISC system talks about four major kinds of behavioral styles or personalities, and the work of Merrick Rosenberg assigns each style to a bird that embodies those qualities to make it easier to remember:
Most people drawn to sales, especially in the medical device field, tend to be of the Parrot or Eagle personality type. If you think about the qualities of a Parrot, they are outgoing, fun, and sometimes a little noisy. Consider the case where a parrot walks into a doctor's office and that doctor is an Owl. These people tend to be more reserved and intellectual, and they tend not to enjoy loud banter with people they have just met. Uh oh!
Think about this: the product may be the best thing in the world. It may mostly sell itself. However, if that sales rep Parrot approaches that Owl doctor with the usual gusto and high energy optimism, that doctor is not going to respond as predicted... at least not as the Parrot would predict. Someone familiar with personality styles would understand why the doctor is annoyed.
Rewind now. Think about a case now where the Parrot realizes, "Wow, I am about to talk to an Owl. I better dial it down." Then the Parrot goes in there with plenty of preparation and backup data that an Owl typically expects and less of the unflagging cheer. Now the Owl is likely to respond because the sales person is adjusting to the Owl's style and that makes the doctor hear the rep. From that point, now that communication is established, the chance of a sale has increased, provided the other elements are there.
This barely scratches the surface, but the idea is selling a product, no matter the merits of that product, owes its success to how well the sales person can adapt to the personality of the buyer. As one of my teachers put it, "One person is going to get exhausted from adapting during that sales call, and it better be you!" Someone who can sell to a personality by adjusting to it is better equipped to sell the product than someone who simply creates a pitch and uses the same pitch on everyone. In essence, a sales person needs at least four pitches!
For more information, or to continue this discussion, comment below or contact Josh Simon, Principal Consultant, Spiral Medical Development.
Image Credits: Take Flight Learning, LLC