When sales performance improvement company Consalia interviewed 58 senior executives for an international research project, it found that over 60 per cent of them felt that only 10 per cent of sales staff know what their customers need.

Does this scenario sound familiar?

A salesman is trying to “hard-sell” to you a product that you may or may not need. He may or may not understand his customer market or your needs, thus he uses standard sales phrases that make you doubtful that he is really telling the truth.

You walk away unconvinced and unimpressed.

Limiting/negative values

On analysing the data obtained from the interviews, eight common “negative behaviours” of sales staff emerged.

They are: control, manipulation, selfishness, lack of respect, aggression, supplier-centricity, individualism and arrogance.

If a salesman’s value system is not grounded with the “right” values, then no matter what training, support and coaching is provided, there is little chance of these being “lived” in the field. 

“Lived values” can be expressed through both action and non-action. They influence the behaviour that customers observe.

Negative behaviours can be linked to four “limiting/negative” values.

We use the term “limiting” as these values may not necessarily lose a sale, though they could. We conclude that if a salesman lives these values, he will not meet customer expectations and will under-perform.

The four limiting values and drivers of these behaviours are:

• Egocentricity: Motivated by self-interest, arrogant, individualistic, opinionated, controlling.

• Manipulation: Pushy, insincere, pressurising, dishonest, glib, annoying.

• Complacency: Egotistical, self-satisfied, inattentive, unconcerned, lazy, unoriginal.

• Short-sightedness: Reactive, lacking foresight, lacking accountability, a lack of interest, unstrategic, unknowledgeable.

Differentiating values

Consalia then identified positive values — the values that customers seek of sales staff.

They are: proactive creativity, passion, collaboration, authenticity, tactful audacity, integrity and trust, client-centricity, perceptive communication and leadership.

These values are considered entry points to becoming the ideal salesman, such as passion, and go on to identify the values that differentiate one salesman from another.

It became clear that four leading values are client-centricity, proactive creativity, tactful audacity and authenticity. The other values are all encompassed by these four:

• Client-centricity: Interested, investigative, knowledgeable, dedicated, passionate, accountable, attentive.

• Proactive creativity: Strategic, forward thinking, innovative, creative, reflective, above and beyond.

• Tactful audacity: Daring, bold, challenging, aware of limits, diplomatic, unconventional, enthusiastic.

• Authenticity: Honest, credible, unpretentious, sincere, ethical, trustworthy, dependable.

The four outstanding values approach has already been adopted by several companies and gained excellent results.

For example, a series of 18 workshops based on the Four Values was run in Europe for a global IT company, in an effort for it to win more large deals.

Each workshop involved a different live deal. Attendees gained a thorough understanding of the customer, reflected on their organisation and issues, and then came up with ideas for improving the customer’s business.

Those deals that included a workshop had a 63 per cent conversion rate, compared with 20 per cent for the deals that did not include a workshop.

To adopt the new sales paradigm means to really “live” the four values.

So, the salesman has to genuinely desire to understand his customers, and their customers, and to help in all areas of their business.

He should have the courage and audacity to make suggestions that are outside the box.

As one executive said: “The most important thing is that the salesman must know the business of the customer. If he knows the business, he is able to offer new services and new solutions for the business.

“In other words, the salesman could be proactive in order to reach the goals of being a high sales performer.”

Selling is the oldest profession, yet in many ways it has not moved on.

Perhaps now is the time for sales professionals and sales leaders to radically rethink what is required. Customers certainly seem to be suggesting so.


Article by Philip Squire, CEO of Consalia, a global sales performance improvement company. For more information, e-mail Ms Corrinne Sim at csim@consalia.com or visit www.consalia.com