Question: Dave, I’m a salesperson and I’m a Christian. I feel really conflicted between the culture of the job and my commitment to Christ. Do you have any specific thoughts on how to be a Christian salesperson today?
Answer: Yes, I do. As you may or may not know, I’ve been a salesperson – and a sales trainer, sales consultant, and sales author – for almost all my adult life. And, for most of that, I’ve been a born-again Christian. So, I’ve had ample opportunities to consider the ideas behind your question. In the first part of my response to this question, I examined the beliefs and attitudes that you ought to nurture in order to fully realize your potential as a Christian salesperson: Your job gives you a special high-impact ministry and you ought to develop the Christian virtues to gain more influence over those around you. I recommended that you download my free “Christian Salespersons Manifesto.” In this part, we’ll look at six Christian Sales Practices to implement into your routines.
What does the Bible say about sales?
I’m often asked if the Bible has anything to say about sales. While there are some passages that provide some direction (Do unto others…) for the most part, the Bible is silent on the strategies and tactics that a professional salesperson can employ to do well at the job. There are some passages that you can apply, but they are a real stretch to do so.
That does not mean, however, that God left us totally on our own. Like many other things, he put certain principles and processes into place in the natural world.
Adam and Work
When God told Adam “To care for and work the Garden,” he was creating the pattern for the work that he assigned to mankind. Care for his creation, and continually uncover and co-create with Him succeeding levels of organization and sophistication. Uncover the natural resources and the principles and processes He built into creation. When we discover and implement them, we dramatically improve our results because we are in sync with God’s plan.
Take growing corn, for example. There is very little said about the process of growing corn in the Bible. But there is a process in the natural world, that, once we uncover it and implement it, allows us to dramatically increase our yields. At one time, for example, corn was found and gathered by the people. And, I suppose the best gatherer could spot a healthy ear of corn from a distance.
At some point, though, someone had the idea to actually cultivate, not gather, corn. And so, we changed our mindset, and gradually learned to identify the best soil for corn, how deep to plant it, how much space to allow between the stalks, how much to water and fertilize, etc. Those truths were always there. But it took someone with a different way of thinking to discover the principles and practices that God built into the natural world, and then to use them to multiply the results.
The same thing is true about sales. There are principles and practices built into creation such that, when we uncover and implement them, we can dramatically improve our results.
It is true that one doesn’t have to be a Christian to understand and implement God’s principles and practices for growing corn — or selling effectively. At the same time, because the principles were created by God and built into creation, it is also true that Christians ought to be master salespeople because they stick closely to those God-given concepts.
At the tactical level, the practices employed by Christian salespeople ought to be the same as those employed by the best salespeople – Christian or not. That’s because those principles were created by God and embedded in his creation. He, of course, wants his people to use them.
In my book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, I articulate a core set of God-given practices that anyone, and especially Christian salespeople, can embed in their routines. Please see the major illustration from the book at the beginning of this post.
Christian Sales Practice #1: Engage with the right people
“Engage” means to interact in some kind of communication. It can be face-to-face, over the phone, via email, or via a website. “Right people” means those people who have a need or interest in your product, and for whom the timing is right.
If you don’t engage with the right people, you spend all your time in the wrong place. Sort of like trying to plant your corn seeds on a cement sidewalk. You can do everything else right, but it won’t matter.
Notice that each step occurs within the framework of the “right people.” In other words, if you do all the right things, but do them with the wrong people, you’re not even on the diagram. It’s an exercise in futility and a waste of your time.
Christian Sales Practice #2: Make them comfortable with you
If they are going to believe what you say, you must be somewhat credible, and they must feel at least a bit comfortable with you. If they aren’t comfortable with you, they won’t spend much time with you, and the time that they do spend will be guarded and tentative. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a website, or in a face-to-face encounter. They may be convinced to do business with you because of the fundamental attractiveness of your offer, but if they are not comfortable with you, it will be action taken against the grain. They will be forever uncomfortable and eager to find a replacement.
On the other hand, if they are comfortable with you, they won’t mind spending time with you. They’ll be much more open to sharing the information that is necessary for you to do a good job of crafting a solution. They’ll believe what you have to say. You’ll get the benefit of the doubt and they’ll be eager to share future opportunities with you.
Notice that step two, make them comfortable with you, is in the center of the diagram, touching every other step. While it must happen early in the sales process, it must be continually nurtured throughout the process. At any point in the process, your customer can grow leery or irritated with you, and that disrupts everything.
Christian Sales Practice #3: Find out what they want
Selling is not manipulating people so that they take something they don’t want. It is, instead, finding out what they already want, and appealing to that interest. The best salespeople excel at this step in the process.
I believe this step is the heart of selling – the essence of what sales are all about. I know that flies in the face of the routine practices of multitudes of salespeople, who believe that the end all their focus is to push their product.
You can proclaim the merits of your product to willing and unwilling listeners and web page visitors far and wide, attempting to sway them with the powerful features and advantages that your product offers over the competition. Or, you can focus on the customer, finding out what motivates him, what issues are important to him, what problems he has, what objectives he is trying to solve, what he looks for in a vendor, etc. That’s a better way.
Everything that comes before is designed to get to this understanding. And everything that you do after is based on this step. It is the fulcrum upon which the entire sales process pivots.
Christian Sales Practice #4: Show them how what you have gives them what they want
Proclaiming your product’s features is the preferred routine of the mediocre salesperson. Personally, and individually, crafting your presentation to show the customer how what you have gives him what he wants is the mindset that, in part, defines the master salespeople.
If what you have doesn’t help them get what they want, you either have the wrong thing, or you are talking to the wrong person. See how simple this is?
Christian Sales Practice #5: Gain an agreement on the next step
Closing the sale is by far the most over-hyped phase of selling. If you have the right person, and you have uncovered something they want, and you have shown them how what you have gives them what they want, why wouldn’t they take the next positive step? It’s natural. You just need to help them define what that is and commit to it.
In a simple, direct to the consumer sale, the next step is typically to buy the product. However, in more complex sales, there can be a series of appropriate next steps. They may need to test it, to evaluate it, to submit it to a committee, etc.
Every sales interaction has an assumed next step. If you call someone for an appointment, the next step is the appointment. If you present your solution to a decision-maker, the next step is the order. In between, there are thousands of potentially different sales calls, and thousands of potential action steps that follow the sales call.
The agreement is the ultimate rationale for the sales call and the aspect that makes it a “sales” call. A sales call is set apart from the rest of the interactions in this world by the fact that it anticipates an agreement.
Without an agreement, the process has been a waste of time. It is the ultimate goal of every salesperson, and of every sales process, and of every sales call.
Christian Sales Practice #6: Follow up and leverage the transaction to other opportunities
After they buy, you then make sure that they were satisfied, and you assume that, because they are satisfied, they will want to do other business with you and will want to let their friends know about you as well. Sounds simple, and it is.
This is the step of the sales process that is most commonly neglected. Most salespeople are so focused on making the sale they neglect to consider that their real purpose is to satisfy the customer. And that extends beyond just the sale itself.
The sales call on the customer, made after the sale is complete, delivered, and implemented by the customer, is one of the most powerful sales calls available. In it, the salesperson seeks assurance that the customer is satisfied, and then leverages that affirmation to uncover additional opportunities within the customer and/or referrals to people in other organizations.
You can do each step better!
It’s one thing to be able to do each step, and it’s another to be able to do each step better! Just like every other field of human endeavor, there are average performers, and there are those who do it better!
Here’s an example. I love to golf. But I am, at best, an average golfer. I’m not nearly as good as many of the golfers in my league. I know I can golf better – after all, many of them are better. Every year I expect that I will golf a bit better. But, alas, I just don’t have the time and energy to put into becoming better. So, while I am an average golfer, I could, if I chose, become better.
So, too with every one of these steps in the process. There is adequate performance, and then there is better performance. But it’s not an either/or kind of situation. There are degrees of better. There’s lots of room between me and Tiger Woods.
Think of your performance on each step as being like a dart target. You know the kind I’m thinking about – it is split into 6 or 8 pie-shaped slices, and has a number of rings, each smaller than the one immediately to the outside of it. The bull’s eye, in the middle of the target, has the greatest scoring potential.
When you are playing darts, you throw your darts at the target, and the closer your dart strikes to the bull’s eye, the more points you score. If your dart strikes at the outermost ring, you score just a few points. But you do many times better if you hit the bull’s eye.
Now, every time you engage in one of the process steps, it’s like throwing a dart at the target. You can hit the outer ring and score a few points or hit closer to the bull’s eye and score more. You can do each step of the process, or you can do each step better. And, like the ever-smaller rings of the target, there are degrees of better. The bull’s eye is always the vision of perfection.
Christian salespeople should be committed to improving, forever, in each of the core competencies represented in the illustration.
Adapted from How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, Career Press.