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The truth is, sales provides a great platform to serve others

Everywhere you look, people are discussing purpose-driven work. Millennials, in particular, are the focus of much of this talk. The Internet is rife with studies showing that this generation of young workers, the fastest growing segment of the workplace, are increasingly invested in working towards a purpose and not just at a job. But this drive for meaning in our work is hardly a new concept. In fact, a clearly defined and well-developed purpose has always been the deciding factor between stellar achievement and mere survival.

But what is a well-developed sales purpose? And how can you help your sales team align themselves with a mission that drives both their personal growth and professional success?

Two Extremes: Survival and Service

Why do you do what you do? Why do you sell what you sell?

These two basic questions seem almost too simple to ask but, if considered and answered well, they hold the key to unlocking the full potential of your sales force.

A salesperson’s career purpose (conscious or unconscious) falls on a spectrum between two extremes. On one end is survival: Quotas must be met. Mortgages must be paid. These are undeniable realities. On the other end of the spectrum is service: the driving desire to create as much value for as many customers as possible—to help people overcome their challenges or fulfill their needs. To make a positive impact in someone’s life.

Where someone falls on that spectrum can reveal some clues about why certain salespeople consistently outperform all the others, even when all other factors are equal. Many people fail in sales not because of an inferior product or an ineffective pitch. They fail rather because they view selling as something you do to people rather than for them. And this view is often reinforced by the focus of the conversations salespeople’s managers have with them: Produce. Hit the numbers. Make the calls. Drive profitability.

In other words, their managers focus on the survival end of the spectrum. Make your quota and you’ll keep your job.

Obviously, a profitable enterprise requires salespeople who meet their quotas. But a team that focuses on filling people’s needs and providing value to customers as their primary sales purpose will achieve much higher sales than those who are solely intent on maintaining their jobs.

This isn’t just speculation. It’s something we see play out again and again. Salespeople who view selling as a service transcend the survival-based need to sell something. They develop stronger rapport and trust with customers and increase their own self-respect and confidence. They invariably sell more because their actions are rooted in purpose, and their purpose becomes fuel that ignites their achievement drive.

The Secret to Helping Your Team Discover a Powerful Purpose

When salespeople go out just to “make a sale,” it creates a cognitive dissonance. There’s an internal conflict between “what I want” (to be a good person) and “what I need” (to make someone buy) that then inhibits their performance. That conflict either guarantees failure or, at best, causes lower levels of success.

But the truth is, sales provides a great platform to serve others. When salespeople learn to view what they offer as a service in pursuit of a higher purpose, they develop the energy, the will and the courage to try, fail and finally succeed. The strength of a powerful sales purpose equips them to face risks and conquer setbacks. After all, if what you’re striving for is worthy enough, then roadblocks become merely obstacles to overcome on the road to your goal.

Developing a new mindset requires daily attention and focus. When coaching salespeople, don’t just focus on the survival end of the spectrum. Help them tap into their deeper sales purpose and recognize that their role is an opportunity to provide exceptional service and fulfill a need.

Here are some questions your salespeople should be thinking about regularly:

  1. Who will I help tomorrow?
  2. What are specific ways that I can help them?
  3. How will they feel once I’ve helped them?
  4. How will I feel when I’ve helped them?

A self-directed or survival-based focus will never allow someone to reach their highest potential. But when people view what they do as serving the higher purpose of helping solve real problems, fill real needs needs and provide real value, they’ll unleash their inner drive to excel.


About the Author
Mike Esterday

Partner and CEO

Mike Esterday first discovered his talent for sales when he ranked number one out of 6,000 sales professionals in his...
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