Using the Golden Rule in Sales

A post in the series on My Journey to the Golden Rule.

I returned to EIU two years later with my MBA in hand. Quite honestly, the MBA did not help me become a better sales person in the technical sense. Few academics work with the sales process even though a company dies without sales. What an MBA did do for me was help me make new connections in my mind for what was possible in business. So I was able to ask better questions of prospects about their actual needs. What helped close deals was my focus on treating customers well. And, as I saw later, it was the Golden Rule which helped the most: I treated prospects, customers, and ex-customers the way I would want to be treated in the same situation.

Operationalizing the Golden Rule is what you came to this site for. Here are my key sales tips:

  • Pick up the phone on the first ring no matter where you are. This shows you are serious about helping people. Make it easy for your colleagues and prospects to reach you; isn’t that how you want to be treated?
  • If you must let a call go to voicemail, call the person back before the end of the day.
  • Find out how what someone’s problem is using proper questioning techniques. Your prospect needs your help, which gives you the right to ask questions about their problem.
  • Explain how your capabilities can solve that problem.
  • Be honest on time lines, pricing, and limitations. You will be surprised how often customers will agree to modifications if you are up front at the start.
  • Deliver on time.
  • If you can’t deliver on time with the quality you promised, make sure they know that early on.
  • Accept responsibility for failures and do your best to make it up to them.
  • Walk away from projects before you begin if you cannot do a great job.
  • Under promise, over deliver.

You now know everything that is in every sales book on the planet. Will you actually do these? Do your vendors and customers truly believe in these? How many of them know the Golden Rule? Everyone?

Golden Rule Lesson: The Golden Rule was always in the back of my mind during every call. Even when I was tired or thought the prospect was asking the wrong thing, I reminded myself “Is this how I would want to be treated? Is this the right thing to do?” I would go back to edit an email or send a thank you or do whatever it took to close a deal the right way.

The difficulty with sales roles is they are quota based. At the time, EIU operated on quarterly targets with a team approach since some of my commission was based on how well we did globally. While we had monthly calls to explain progress, I was focused on the customers. I had an eye on my quarterly numbers—because those mattered to everyone—but spent my time on helping people. Keeping my focus on helping customers saved me from worrying about my numbers, which would have led me to panic. Panic would have led me to push on customers. Pushing customers leads to bad feelings and bad deals. I don’t like being pushed into a sale, so I refused to do that to clients.

After a year or so, my efforts began to pay off with a constant stream of deals that were tailored to what the customer wanted and what we could deliver. People started to ask me for advice! If I had only told them to focus on the Golden Rule, I would have given them much better advice than I had.

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