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Sales Question and Answer #20 – Is Being Yourself a Sales Strategy?

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

Article By Dave Kahle

Q.   Is “being yourself” a sales strategy?

A.   If you are naturally an attractive, sensitive, empathetic human being who everyone loves to be with, if you have a great measure of sensitivity and perceptiveness coupled with outstanding intelligence and unshakable integrity, then the answer is “Yes, of course, be yourself.”  If you are anything less than perfect, though, maybe you ought to carefully consider it.

Let’s unpack this seemingly simple little question.

First, what does “being yourself” mean?  Does it mean to accept your current level of sales skills, no matter how finely or poorly developed?

If you have a negative attitude, does it mean that you let that attitude affect all of your actions, regardless of the consequences?

If you have personality traits that are detrimental to your success as a sales person, say you are naturally timid, for example, do you do nothing about it?  Attempting to buff off some of the sharp points of your personality would mean that you couldn’t just “be yourself,” because “yourself” in its current state isn’t good enough.

Finally, does it mean to never question the mindsets, paradigms and core beliefs that form the cornerstone of your character?

People are complex, with layers to their personalities.  I have often used a diagram to illustrate it.  You can find it, and a greater discussion of it, in my book, Take Your Sales Performance Up a Notch.

When it comes to what it means to “be yourself,” I can make a good case that it means your values, beliefs and world view – the deeper layers.  In this scenario, “being yourself” means that you don’t compromise those deeper issues.  You do, however, accept that you may have tactics that are ineffective, skills that are undeveloped, habits that are detrimental, and attitudes that hinder success.  In that case, by all means don’t accept who you currently are, as it relates to the more superficial aspects of your character and capabilities.  Unless you are perfect, “being yourself” in the levels above “values” is not a good idea.

But there is implicit in this question a much larger, deeper question:  If “being yourself” is a sales strategy, can you ever become “better?”  In other words, if “being yourself” is an effective strategy, why seek to improve?  If you are perfectly content with who you are now, then there is no “better self” out there into which to grow.

If “being yourself” implies that you are as good as you can be, that your current self is perfectly acceptable, then I must categorically and emphatically reject that idea.

One of the greatest challenges of being a professional sales person is this:  You are never as good as you can be.  In every tactic, in every strategy, in every relationship, you can become better.  You can ask a better question, you can listen more constructively, you can manage your time better, you can present better, close better and follow up more effectively than you do now.

For over twenty years I have worked with hundreds of sales organizations, and tens of thousands of sales people.  In all of this experience of helping people and organizations become better and sell more effectively, I have concluded that this issue is the single most important issue in every organization and every individual – do you truly believe that you can become better, and are you committed to the process?

This is the fulcrum upon which future success pivots.  Those individuals and companies who understand it, continually improve and become successful.  Those who don’t, make excuses and live in mediocrity.

Everyone, of course, gives lip service to wanting to become better.  But to really mean it you must be willing to pay the price of constant, positive change.  And that price is reflected in money invested in their own development, time allocated to it, but more importantly, ego and self-image put at risk.  Don’t tell me you want to improve, for example, if you won’t invest $10 in a book to help yourself.  Sales managers, don’t tell me you want to improve your sales force, if you won’t inject them into opportunities and events where they can learn to do it better.  Don’t tell me you want to improve, if you are afraid to try something new because it means that you have to admit that didn’t know it all before.

If, then, “being yourself” implies that your current self is as good as it is going to be, that you can become nothing more,  and do nothing better, then “being yourself” is not only a bad strategy, it is a position that will eventually lead to mediocrity and irrelevance.

If “being yourself” means that you hold fast to your core values, beliefs and world view, but you continually strive to improve your attitudes, strategies, habits and tactics, then being yourself is perfectly appropriate.

Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle
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