Paul explains why humility is important when selling in tough times.
“Humility is one of the most misunderstood virtues in business.”
Humility is about taking the focus off of yourself. Humility is required to view the world from the eye of the customer.
It’s easier to see the absence of humility than humility itself. Humility begets growth. We can’t get better until we admit that we can get better.
Tough times will humble everyone. Even the most arrogant sellers are humbled by the uncertainty we face.
“The bigger they are, the harder they fall. The more humble you are, the softer you fall.”
“Embrace humility by asking for help” This one salesperson learned from his colleagues by making joint calls. The colleague played the role of the competition.
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How important is humility in tough times?
(Transcribed from podcast)
On today’s show, we’re going to talk about humility. Recently, I was talking with just a sales leader. We were talking about top-achieving salespeople. We’re talking about value-added salespeople, and he had a great question. He said, “Paul, I noticed in your book, in Value-Added Selling, you talk a lot about humility.” He said, “In your opinion, how important is humility? In your opinion, how important is humility when you’re selling in tough times?” And that’s the question we’re going to talk about today is humility and how it relates to sales, but also how it relates to tough times.
Before we get into it though, a quick shout-out to our sponsor, Andrea, and The Creative Impostor Studios. For all things podcast, reach out to Andrea. She can guide you, coach you, help you get your podcast launched or help improve the podcast that you already have. Podcasting is a great way to connect with your audience. So, please, take advantage of the free consultation that she offers to our community. There’s going to be links to her website on this episode’s webpage. So check it out.
Also, there’s going to be a link to Value-Added Selling. As I mentioned in the opening question, in Value-Added Selling, we talk a lot about humility and how important it is. I’ll shed some light on that today in the podcast. But make sure you pick up your latest edition of Value-Added Selling. You’ll notice themes of humility throughout the entire book.
With that being said, let’s get back to that question: How important is humility in tough times? Let’s take a step back from tough times for a moment and just think about humility in general. Humility is one of the most misunderstood virtues in business. Everyone claims that it’s important, but it’s hard to see sometimes with sales leaders, with business leaders and salespeople. You think about all the characteristics or stereotypes, even, that you hear about salespeople: that they’re loud, they’re controlling, they’re egocentric, they’re cocky. All of these labels are not consistent with humility. And so, that’s one of the reasons we believe humility is such a critical part of value-added sellers, because remember, value-added selling is about putting the focus on the customer, taking the focus off of yourself. And to do that requires a degree of humility.
When we get into humility and what humility actually is, humility is modesty. It’s taking a lowly view of oneself so that you can see greater opportunities to improve. Humility is about putting the focus outward versus inward. Humility is about realizing you can always get better.
When we think about humility, I think it’s most noticeable when it’s absent from a salesperson. That’s what we’re going to talk about first is when you think about humility… humility begets growth. The reason it begets growth is because someone can’t improve or grow until they first admit that they can improve and grow. As a salesperson, we’ve got to remember that every day we’re getting better; every day we’re learning, we’re improving. And we can only do that if we’re humble enough to admit that we can get better.
Now, when we think about this… Some sales professionals, you’ll notice that humility is missing. It’s sometimes easier to see the absence of humility than to see humility in and of itself, which is kind of interesting. But, when we see those salespeople that believe they’re the best, that are overly confident, cocky, that are egocentric, that believe that their way is the best and they know it all; they can close it all; they can do all that, that’s what gives salespeople a bad name. Those types of salespeople are limited, by their own ego, to improve and get better. We’ve got to remember, with humility, humility begets growth. We can’t get better until we first admit that we can get better.
Also, with humble salespeople, one of the reasons they thrive in tough times, humble salespeople take the focus off of themselves and they put it on the customer. They’re others focused. They’re focused on their customers. They’re focused on their teammates. They seem to focus on everyone except for themselves. Remember, in tough times, one of the biggest mistakes that salespeople make is that they focus more on their own problems versus their customer’s problems. They’re more focused on closing a deal for their company versus making a difference in their customer’s business. Humble salespeople thrive in tough times because they’re able to separate themselves, their ego, all of these things, and focus their time and attention and effort on the customer.
Now, we’ve got to remember also, tough times humble everyone—even the most arrogant of salespeople, the cockiest salespeople, ego-driven salespeople—tough times, humble people. That’s what they do. During the tough time that we’re experiencing right now, there are some salespeople out there that needed to be taken down a notch. They needed that kick in the teeth so that they can figure out how to improve, how to get better. And they finally realized that maybe they can improve and get better. But one thing we’ve got to remember, why humble salespeople thrive during tough times is because they’ve already embraced humility before the tough time.
You’ve all heard the expression, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. We could use that expression and tie it to the typical arrogant, overly confident salesperson because the bigger their ego, the harder they will typically fall because they already thought they were the best. And when they realize they’re not, when they realize they have weaknesses, it’s harder for them to overcome that.
If we could shift that expression just a little bit (the bigger they are, the harder they fall), we could say that the more humble they are, the softer they fall. That’s what happens with humble salespeople, because humble salespeople thrive in good times and especially in tough times, because they’ve already been humbled. By their very nature, they’re humble people going into that tough time. They already realize they can get better. They realize that they can improve.
To wrap things up, I want to give you an idea, one tip that can help you become more humble, because everyone can use a little more humility in their life. Here’s one way to do it. Ask for help. Embrace humility by asking for help from your colleagues, from your manager. I’ll give one example as we close out here today. There was one salesperson in a training seminar. This was a number of years ago. The salesperson was talking about humility and complacency and arrogance. And he said, “You know, as a young seller, I was arrogant. I was overly confident. I remember, I thought I was the best, so I became complacent, especially with one customer. This one customer of mine, they were turned off by my whole attitude. They were turned off by the lack of value that I was creating.” He said, “It really humbled me and I had to learn that there are always ways to improve and to get better.” And so, that salesperson decided to take action to become more humble.
Here’s what he did. From now on, when that salesperson will call on an existing customer and he started to feel like he was becoming complacent, or he thought that they were offering the best solution and there’s nothing more he could do, he decided to humble himself. Here’s how he would do it. He would invite his sales manager or one of his sales colleagues to come and make a joint visit with that customer. And he told the visitor that was coming with him, the sales manager or the colleague, he would say, “Your job is to come in here and act like you’re the competition, like you’re trying to sell against me. I want you to poke holes in my solution. I want you to offer some feedback on where I can improve.” He would offer this to his customers, he would even call his customers and say, “I’m bringing in a colleague of mine. The reason they’re here is to be a fresh set of eyes just to see if there are any opportunities for us to improve and get better for you.”
The customers loved it. They welcomed it. That’s an example of a salesperson who was once arrogant that led to complacency, eventually turned around and became a little more humble. And they did it by asking for help. You can do the same thing.
Make it a big day.