In 1995 I wrote a book called Selling with Integrity: reinventing sales through collaboration, respect, and serving, published in 1997 and subsequently on the NYTimes Business Bestseller list. The book continues to sell well, being considered one of the top sales books of all time. At the time I wrote it, it took a month of hassling before my publisher agreed to me using the term ‘serving’ rather than ‘service.’ And, at the time, I didn’t know how to talk or write about Buying Facilitation™ as clearly as I do now.
Selling with Integrity was my nascent attempt to explain the idiosyncratic way buyers buy behind-the-scenes, and our jobs as sellers to serve them by being neutral navigators, GPS systems, and decision facilitators. But I wasn’t that clear, and I ended up writing about our spiritual values and how we, as sales professionals, can actually use our positions to actually lead buyers through their own criteria and values. I actually wrote several articles with titles such as ‘The Seller as Servant-Leader.’ Indeed, an article with that title was the most requested reprint from Leadership Excellence magazine.
It is with great joy that I am now seeing the words ‘selling with integrity’ all over the net these days. Sure, twelve years after my book came out, but now in the publish consciousness nonetheless. It is with dismay, however, that I hear the words being used as part of the ‘sales’ effort – how to gather data nicely, really CARE about a client. In other words, same-old same-old with a NICE twist.
At no point have I seen any focus on the other part of the decision process that buyers must address before they can consider making a purchase – those sniggly, private, silly, political, relationship-based, confusing, and definitely confounding steps that they must take off-line before being in a position to actually make a purchase choice. Sales doesn’t handle this, and so we’ve sat and waited, pitched and Tweeted, developed strategic content and white papers, designed SPIN and trust-values-relationship-question-based selling models to do all we can to make a sale. All, of course, to mitigate the truth: sales gives us absolutely no way to control or influence whatever the hell is going on within the buyer’s buying system behind-the-scenes — and without us. So now we’re calling it ‘selling with integrity.’
I’d like us to consider going back to the original meaning of my title: by actually becoming a neutral navigator, by having the skills to be a decision facilitator, by truly leaving behind sales until the buyer has managed all of their internal crazy stuff (the old vendor appears, a partner wants to take over the initiative, one of the department heads threatens to quit if they choose you as a vendor, etc.) and is ready to make a purchase and ensure stability within their system. I’d like you all to consider that there are actually two parts to a buying decision, and sales gives us hundreds of tools to help with the info-gathering, solution-placement part…. and none to help with the behind the scenes part.
I’d like you to consider that ‘selling with integrity’ might mean adding a new skill set to what you are doing and making it your job to wait with the sales skills, and instead SERVE the buyer by having no bias or intent around solution placement, and instead be the gentle, off-line laser or GPS system that leads the path through the internal decision issues. It’s not the sales model you’re used to (see my new book that discusses this www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com). But it’s ‘selling with integrity.