The Need to Win

Sales people are competitive. I imagine I won’t get much argument on that point. Frankly, I’m not sure that you can succeed in selling  without having a deeply routed desire to win embedded in your DNA. But when is the healthy desire to win deals overshadowed by a twisted, relentless push to win or prove you are right at all costs?

What got me thinking about why some sellers desperately need to win is because of a question posed in one of my LinkedIn groups. The question is “Why is it that so many sales people have so much trouble seeing any view other than their own?”

I actually don’t believe that this question just relates to sales people.Human beings, in general, have difficulty seeing viewpoints other than their own. Through our own experiences, beliefs are formed and are typically hard to change. People may try to convince you of their position, but unless you are open to changing your mind, I just don’t think it happens. If it did, we’d have world peace already!

So let’s think about the question for a moment. Is it that sales people can’t let go of their point of view, like Fido who won’t relinquish his bone at any cost? Or, are there other reasons why sales people are so single minded in their thinking? Here are three possibilities:

1. Sales people are paid to win deals. That’s the job. They are taught to pitch and to try every conceivable tactic they can think of to convince you to see things their way. They are also expected to make X number of calls, conduct X number of meetings and demo’s, etc. There is a lot of chatter about the importance of working with prospects to “solve problems”, but let’s face it, talk is cheap. When it gets right down to it, management expectations, sales compensation and performance measurement are driving behavior. Sales people are rarely incented to focus on doing what’s right. They are rarely incented to take the long view. What sales people are taught is to win - now - if they expect to be paid. It isn’t unusual for a sales person to cut corners if they think it will help them seal the deal.

2. A sales message is constantly beaten into their heads that their company, their product, their service is the most bad ass out there. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the corporate product team (at a former company) tell sales teams that winning against the competition was a no-brainer. Not true, but nonetheless product managers and developers believed that “features” and “a better mouse trap” closed sales. Now that I think about it, a lot of sales people think the same thing. I’ll never forget the sales rep I was mentoring who wanted to demo “pivot tables” to the CIO of a worldwide company, but that’s a story for another day.

3. Over confidence (dare I say arrogance?). Partially this is brought on by point number two. But most sales folks I know believe in their heart of hearts, whether they admit it or not, that they can charm you, influence you, convince you to their way of thinking. I’d be a bazillionaire right now if I was paid every time I heard a sales person say that if “they can just get the meeting, they can close the sale!” They actually believe that no matter the situation, they can close it. I have fallen into this trap myself at various points in my sales career. Now that I’m a little more experienced, I am also a bit more realistic. You just won’t win every time.

Hey, I’m competitive. I do like to win but within the context of wanting to win, it is extremely important to me that I do no harm in the process. Sure, go for the gold, but do it with integrity, caring and respect. A flat out desire to win puts someone else in the losing position. That someone could be your buyer and no one wants to buy from anyone who makes them feel like a loser. Worse, no one wants to be “sold” only to find out that the product or service didn’t deliver as promised.

In the end, I still think that the answer to the question of why sales people have trouble seeing other viewpoints is that they are not paid to do so. Their goal is to win. It is that simple.

I’d love to hear what you think!

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