"Just make a friend." That was some of the first advice I ever got when I became a frontline salesperson. Dutifully following my manager's advice, I did just that.
At the end of the week, I had a lot of friends. One couple even invited me to their home for Thanksgiving. We had a great connection ... just like all of the folks I'd seen that week! But here's the thing: I had a lot of friends, but no sales.
That happened many years ago. Today, the idea that making friends will lead to sales has again reared its friendly head. Only now, it goes by a different name: Authenticity.
"Just be yourself." "Just tell your story."
But these maxims are incomplete. Just be yourself and tell your story, and then what?
The way I've heard it, rainbows and puppies will appear, fairy dust will start swirling, prospects will fall madly in love with you and race to relinquish their credit card.
Let's stop the madness!
Of course you have to be real and genuine in sales. You're supposed to be real and genuine in life! But that's not the end-all, be-all.
Here's the real story: Sales requires technique and strategy. It's an art that needs to be learned. It is imperative that you sell from an authentic and genuine place. (Note: Everyone knows when you're not being genuine.)
But just "being authentic" isn't enough to turn interest into a sale.
The crowd that has co-opted this phrase and turned it into a sales (and business) strategy has done you a grave disservice.
They conveniently fail to mention the work that is involved in generating a sale from mere interest, and have left salespeople with the notion that just being a good person should increase your closing percentage.
As a former manager of mine would say: "That, my friends, makes for mighty thin soup!"
What if your "authentic self" is a bore? Or talks too much? What if your "authentic self" is abrasive? There are plenty of people like that, you know.
The moral of this story is as old as the ages.
There is no quick fix. Sales, like most things in life, requires skill, technique, and mastery. You have to have a deep understanding of many different steps of the sales process in order to consistently perform as a top producer month after month.
Sales is as messy as life is, it is a heartbreak and a high all at once, and it is a never ending endeavor. If you can do all of that and be authentic ... then you'll get somewhere!
Originally published Feb 10, 2016 6:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017