If I asked most Drift readers what they do for a living, they'd offer up a job title like chief revenue officer, account executive or regional director. If pushed for a more concrete job description, eventually most would say they sell advertising, technology or services to marketers and agencies.
But I don't think that's what you do at all. At best, selling describes an outcome, a result of other actions you take every day... at least, if you're doing it well. It's taken me a long time and a lot of observation and introspection to get there, but I think I've nailed what great sellers do: they engineer experiences. The mediocre ones? They're the ones who get all caught up in the performance they're giving, the lines they recite, and the slides they flip through.
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A sales call isn't a golf shot or a piano sonata. But so many of us prepare and act as if it is. We drill ourselves on our lines, memorize key points, practice the voice-over for the 37 slides we'll show, test the demo to make sure it purrs like a kitten. We believe that if we only perform well enough and hit all of our high notes, the power of our words will impress and persuade.
Only it doesn't work that way.
Now, reframe the sales call as a shared experience. You and the customer are both living in that moment together, and now it's your job to engineer that experience... you're no longer the funniest guy at the party, but rather the host who's creating an awesome environment for his guests. What will you do differently?
You'll attend. As in, the root verb in attention. Ironically, attending is also the same as being present. Get it?
You'll know something about your guests. There are no strangers. You can always know enough to make the other person feel interesting.
You'll draw people out and make connections. Use what you know to bring the other person into the experience. This is the opposite of bludgeoning them with your own story.
You'll have a plan and watch the clock. Great hosts pay attention to time and pace. They know when things are starting to drag, when people start to disconnect.
You'll rewrite the plan when you need to. If things are petering out and nobody's connecting, change the plan. It's your plan; you get to do that.
Sales is not performance art. It's about creating a fertile space where trust, emotion and opportunity can grow. Too many of us become tone deaf from listening to the sound of our own performances. Let it go. Be interested. Engineer a great shared experience and watch how everything changes.
Originally posted in 2014, but still well short of the expiration date.