Believes All Great Salespeople Should Have This One Trait
Mike Gamson wasn’t always a sales wizard. In fact, for a long time, the man now serving as LinkedIn’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales Solutions held such a negative perception of that profession he wanted nothing to do with it.
What changed? He met a lot of people along the way who taught him that you don’t have to become a cash-obsessed bully in order to be an effective salesperson. As Gamson learned, putting yourself in your buyer’s shoes and practicing compassion benefits, not just the sales relationship, but your own career. That’s especially true nowadays. A recent survey found that 80 percent of buyers don’t think the salespeople they deal with even understand their business. So those who learn how to exercise compassion will gain a competitive edge over others.
My guess is that compassion is something that comes easily to Gamson. He himself will tell you he’s always had a curiosity in the world around him, especially when it comes to how other people work. When he returned to the U.S. in the late 90s, after running a surf and burrito shop in Costa Rica, one of his main goals was to find a mentor figure whose model for working he could apply to his own career.
Gamson’s time at LinkedIn helped him develop a drastically different opinion of sales, inspiring him to create a sales culture he could really believe in. Under the mentorship of former LinkedIn CEO Dan Nye, Gamson learned the importance of putting values before everything you do in your career, whether that’s sales, product marketing or product management. Shortly after Jeff Weiner came to LinkedIn as CEO, the two had a career-changing conversation about “what kind of leader” Gamson aspired to be. Before talking to Weiner, Gamson had believed the most important trait for a leader was empathy, but Weiner argued that compassion was much more important, giving Gamson both a powerful new mentor and a new purpose.
Over the years, Gamson has learned just how valuable having compassion on your buyers and yourself can be. That can seem like a daunting task, especially given that your buyer isn’t one single person—typically there are 6.8 people on any given buying committee. Is it even possible to deal with that many people compassionately? The answer is: absolutely. And when I talked to Gamson, he shared a few key ways to achieve that mindset.
1. Only take a job if you know you’ll thrive in it.
This one can be tough to accept, given how difficult it is to find a job that uses one’s degree and pays the rent. But Gamson urges everyone, regardless of title or hierarchy, to “decompose” the elements of any job that’s offered. That means examining each composite part of a job and asking, for example, “What would my life feel like as an account executive for Disney?”
As far as Gamson’s concerned, the more you love a job, and the more you’re engaged with it on a genuine level, the more effective you’ll be. He points to the dangers of being a “coin-operated salesperson”—that is, a salesperson on autopilot who doesn’t have a personal investment in either their job or their buyers. These people will not only fail to develop a compassionate nature, they’ll also eventually get stuck selling the steak dinners of whatever industry they’re in, rather than working with clients to truly disrupt a market.
2. Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes.
Back to those coin-operated salespeople: they’re all about crushing quota then going home. Any benefits to that way of working end there.
Instead, Gamson says to approach any sales conversation by asking yourself how you can help the other person. What are their needs and wants? How might you help? If the potential customer is getting screwed over by lead-generation firms, can your product or service help deliver them from outbound-marketing hell?
Humility is important here. If the prospective buyer doesn’t need any help with outbound marketing, you should have the willingness to say as much. Why? Because when you can show someone that you understand their business and where they are in terms of a journey, you’re much more likely to develop a trusting relationship. A lack of compassion for the other person’s position might win a deal in the short term, but that might be the only one you ever get with that buyer.
3. Become an expert in something.
As Gamson notes, sales relationships are typically asymmetrical. In other words, one person tends to understand the industry or subject matter a whole lot more than the other. If your prospective buyer works in the renewable-energy sector, but you still forget to recycle sometimes, any conversation you have with that person will be unbalanced. And the problem with that is, it’s hard to feel confident and be compassionate when you’re struggling just to keep pace with the subject matter.
The lesson? Do your homework. Pick an area to become an expert in, preferably one that’s different from anything else people in your organization are studying. Your expertise will set you apart and equip you with the kind of empathy and compassion it takes to turn someone into a long-term client.
How do you keep yourself humble and compassionate on the job? Share your thoughts in the comments below.