August 23, 2023

Sales Isn't Inherently "Salesy" or Arrogant

What stops you from "selling" something you love?

Sometimes one story prompts me to take up my digital pen here. This time it’s two.

I did a Conscious Leadership Mini-Camp with a company last week. The company is well into its journey of growing a consumer communications app to a global audience. It has material traction. It’s a lovable product in my view.

As we were connecting at the start of the Zoom session, I asked the 12 gathered team members – ranging in tenure from two weeks to four years – how many of them think they’ve introduced at least 100 people to the product. Zero hands were raised. I asked how many think they’ve generated 20 new users. One hand.

I was stunned. My mouth agape, I asked why these team members who truly love the app and the company hadn’t told more people about this (mostly free) app. Someone spoke up: “We have humility as a value, so perhaps that’s it.” That was a huge a-ha moment for me. This group articulated a belief that I imagine is broadly held at the company: promoting something one values deeply is a contravention of humility. I know the goals of this company. It wants to increase its user base 100-fold. So. Wow.

Today I ran into Nick Karas, an old friend who left tech to start a new business model for home care. It’s a Boulder-based company that offers, basically, “concierge home services.” I pay them a monthly fee. They recommend seasonal maintenance. I pick and choose what I want them to do from that list, and when something unexpected happens, they respond very quickly. I don’t need to be here. They work with top-notch vendors. I pay for the work they or the vendors do. This business model is as good for my life as any other.

As an example of how valuable this company has been to me, six months ago, they recommended I consider water sensors to detect leaks inside my home. That seemed like a smashing idea, and I have these sensors now all over the place, under every sink, my laundry machine, dishwasher, and so on. It wasn’t an expensive endeavor. I was glad to know these existed and happy to have them in my home. Last month, one of them alerted me via the sensor app. I contacted the company, and they were at my home sorting out the issue (which WAS a leak) in no time at all. Hallelujah.

I asked Nick how things were going. I mentioned the brilliance of their sensor recommendation, and he shared that two of his colleagues were reluctant to offer solutions like this one because it felt uncomfortably “salesy.” This was my second open-mouth stunner in two days!

I don’t want to be too adamant here. I know some people like promoting things they love, and others don’t. I have experienced shyness myself when talking about a new program opening, like the 2024 Coaching Certification for Leaders. And, when I feel that shyness, I tune in to see whether I really value a thing, believe in a thing, love a thing. When I do – and this comes up often when I’m referring a candidate for a role to someone in my network – it feels not like I’m trying to “get” something, but like I’m trying to “give” something wonderful to someone who matters. Even if, in the coldest terms, it is a transaction of sorts.

My sense is that both of these examples circle around the notion of Gay Hendricks’ Upper Limit concept. And, as with many upper limit issues, I think a belief that offering value to people you care about is arrogant or inappropriately salesy keeps companies from reaching their biggest available vision.

These  stories and beliefs are often housed in the unconscious until someone like me asks a pointed question. So if you or your team members are feeling in any way like the team members of these two companies, try to understand what the underlying dynamics are before going about “fixing” them. There is plenty of positive intent and customer love in these beliefs, and, after understanding them, evaluating ways to potentially shift them might be quite accretive to any company (or person) with growth as an objective.

PS: If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I have been writing a book about selling by placing yourself at the center of the sale. YOUmanship: The Art of Selling Yourself and Other Intangibles is well on its way to being an actual book. Thank you for your love and support (and insights) of this endeavor!

Sue Heilbronner

Sue Heilbronner is an executive coach, Conscious Leadership facilitator, and catalyst for change.

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