Selling Among Wolves
January 27, 2007 • By Michael Pink
When we first enter the world of commerce, we’re told how to conform and we’re expected to do so. I began my sales career having no clue there were two systems based on two very different worldviews with two entirely different outcomes. I was told my mission was to work in the marketplace so I could fund the work of the kingdom. If possible I was to very discreetly share the gospel with coworkers and lead them to Christ. It was understood that we were to submit to the tyranny of the system without succumbing to its values. I entered the world of sales like many of you did, through what my friend Dennis Peacocke calls, Pharaoh’s School. It was there they taught me the ways of Egypt, the ways of the flesh or carnal nature. I wanted to learn God’s “way” but instead I was taught by reputable companies the subtle ways to appeal to a person’s pride, or their greed or their love of whatever the world has to offer. In short, I was taught how to appeal to the very side of human nature we are called to disdain.
In the years that followed I struggled to find the Father’s “way” for succeeding in sales. I knew I was called to the business arena and I could see the fundamental flaws of the established system of selling. I had learned twenty ways to close a sale but what I really needed was one good way to open a relationship. I’d been taught how to create artificial need, when all I really needed to know was how to uncover the genuine need that already existed and meet it.
Then one day it all changed for me. I took a job selling copiers in a city I had just moved to. On my first day, the vice president of sales told me they expected six sales in my first ninety days and from then on, to sell one out of four demonstrations. When I came home from work, my wife could see I was upset and asked what was bothering me. I told her they had asked me to accept a seventy-five percent failure rate, and I wasn’t happy about that. I reasoned, “What farmer plants four rows of corn and then prays to God that just one of them will come up?” I picked up my Bible and told her I was going to study His word to find principles and strategies that I could apply to sales. If the Father really had a better “way”, I was going to find it and adapt it to the selling process. Instead of selling one out of four copiers, I purposed to sell one out of one!
Ninety days later at my first quarterly sales review, I had to project my results on a screen in front of my peers. To their astonishment, I was able to report that I had done twenty-two demonstrations and closed twenty-two sales, which was three and a half times a goal no one had ever hit! The difference? I had found the “way” to successfully incorporate Biblical principles and strategies into the selling process. Years later, I began teaching things like the Moses questioning strategy to uncover opportunity, creating a climate of trust based on the life of Christ and true win/win negotiating based on the writings of Paul, and my clients experienced remarkable results. One company in Ohio had been experiencing sluggish sales for the previous couple of years and were stuck at around the $22 million mark. At the halfway point of the year, I was brought in to teach the Biblical principles and strategies I had gleaned from the Bible. Sales increased the last six months of the year by 44% over the same period for the year before and they finished the year at about $30 million.
One reason folks don’t do well in sales is because they see the selling profession as an unclean thing, not recognizing that it’s neither moral nor immoral. For them, selling is a dirty word. They shun it, they dislike it, and they refuse to come to terms with it or to grow in their understanding of it. For their lack of knowledge, they slowly grind away in their mediocrity, living well below their God given potential as life slips by them, one unfulfilled dream after another. In a word, they begin to perish.
What happened? They were sold! Somewhere in life, they bought into the lie that selling is something you do to someone – for your profit, rather than with them – for mutual profit. Being decent people, they didn’t want to play that game. They’d seen the wolves thriving in the business arena virtually unchallenged and agonized internally over their prosperity, finally accepting the platitude that “nice guys finish last”. After all, they would rather be a nice guy and finish last, than a wolf and finish first, as if finishing first and being a nice guy were somehow mutually exclusive.
In the grand game of commerce, wolves and sheep compete for the same slice of the economic pie. In preparation for the contest, wolves don sheep’s apparel to ply their cunning ways under cover of implied innocence while hiding the devious essence of their soul. Many a sheep on the other hand, has traded the innocence of their soul for the crafty ways of the wolf, in a sorry attempt to level the playing field and win their “fair share” of the business. At the end of the day, they’ve become sheep in wolves clothing and that anguished, lonely howling they hear in the night – is their own.
But there’s another breed arising! They’ve learned to walk close to the Shepherd while competing boldly with the wolves. They know how to keep their sense of balance in a most uneven world without adapting the predatory habits of their fiercest competitors. They walk with confidence into the lairs of any corporate boardroom and do not flinch, because they know the Shepherd is with them and they’ve learned His ways.
In sales, it’s that kind of sheep that wins, and wolves move on to easier territory, which brings me to my point: Nice guys can and should finish first. If you’re a nice guy who’s not finishing first, don’t blame the wolf. Don’t blame your company or the product. Don’t blame the economy and especially don’t blame the customer. Look yourself square in the eye and accept full responsibility for your actions and results. There will always be “reasons” why something didn’t work. Accepting them for your personal justification will be your downfall. Unless failure becomes an unacceptable option, it will become an unavoidable routine.
Selling is not a dirty word or an unworthy vocation. The wolves have marked out the territory with their reputation and for too long we have let them have their victories while we huddled under the banner of being a nice guy. It’s my contention that wolves should never win and when they do, the ground they take will remain contested until I take it back. And how will I take it back? Inevitably the wolf always reveals himself for who he really is – a self-serving, money grabbing predator. When that happens, his prey (the customer) will begin to look for a way out and when they do, I’ll be there – anticipating their needs and offering solutions from a principle-based, value-added, customer-centered perspective.
The reason nice guys who succeed are accused of being wolves is because nice guys will go toe-to-toe with any wolf and not back down. The mild mannered sales reps that try to be nicer than Jesus are offended at this. Their pious attitude makes them easy prey for wolves and their self-pity perpetuates. It’s not that nice guys are pushy. It’s just that they’re not pushovers! When they do push, it’s always in the best interest of the customer. The wolf on the other hand pushes only for his own agenda. Another day. Another dollar.
Succeeding in sales is not about becoming a smarter wolf, a nicer wolf, a Christian wolf or in some way, a better wolf. No, succeeding in sales is about outserving your competition in the best interest of your customer. It’s about discovering your customer’s real needs and meeting them. It’s about understanding their goals, their dreams, and their vision for the future, then coming alongside, shouldering the burden and helping them get to their destination. It’s about not backing down from a ruthless competitor. It’s about hanging in there with the customer and walking them through their doubts, calming their fears and solving their problems. In short succeeding in sales is about bringing to bear on the customer’s behalf, that which benefits them most in a bold, uncompromising manner. And when the wolves begin to howl in the night, the nice guys among us can sleep peacefully, knowing they’ve honored God, served their fellow man and been true to themselves.
Michael Q. Pink, best selling author, speaker and creator of “Selling Among Wolves – Without Joining The Pack!” training programs, is founder of the Strategic Resource Institute, providing Biblical solutions for maximizing the impact of sales and marketing strategies. Contact him at: SRI, P.O. Box 19888, Sarasota, FL 34276. Tel: (941) 377-9384 or visit his website at www.SellingAmongWolves.com for information on free seminars in your area.
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