Many sales books characterize selling as winning. But respected sales trainer Jim Doyle says selling should have nothing to do with seeking victories. The I-win-you-lose sales philosophy generates minimum customer loyalty and maximum customer churn. Instead, Doyle offers a completely different approach than most short-term oriented sales books that prioritize profit over customer service. His inspiring manual argues that your customers should always win, because when they win, you do, too. Servant salespeople, Doyle argues, gain major contracts, big commissions and long-term, repeat customers.
- “Servant-heart” sellers follow 10 sales principles.
- 1. You work for your customers.
- 2. Never worry about short-term sales results.
- 3. Ask a lot of questions.
- 4. “Teach, don’t sell.”
- 5. Never pressure your prospects; pushing to close always fails.
- 6. Fulfill the “responsibility of trust.”
- 7. Sometimes the customer isn’t right.
- 8. Do more than necessary.
- 9. To maintain your pricing, don’t become a commodity.
- 10. Keep learning.
“Servant-heart” sellers follow 10 sales principles.
All salespeople suffer from customer churn, an occupational hazard. Servant-heart sellers enjoy a low churn rate because they consistently make efforts to deliver positive results that serve their clients. Customers know these salespeople have a deeper motivation than earning the most sales or the highest commissions. Serving their customers motivates these salespeople, first, last and always; they have “servant hearts.”
Take Dave Wall, a sales representative for Liberty Coach in Stuart, Florida. Liberty Coaches are 45-foot long, ultra-luxury, extravagant motorhomes that can sell for around $2 million each. Wall, a servant-heart sales professional, sells multiple Liberty Coaches each year, mostly to wealthy, demanding business owners. Fully 60% of his customers are repeat buyers. Wall has sold as many as nine big coaches to some customers. Past customers refer another 30% of Wall’s customers to him.
“You’re working for tQhem, but they’re also working for you. They’re telling everybody about their experiences, why they have what they have and who they purchased it from.” (Dave Wall)
As Wall’s customers repeatedly demonstrate, they like and trust him, mostly because he takes care of them. Some former customers have even joined his staff and become productive salespeople.
Other servant-heart salespeople who shared their approach include Pierre Bouvard, former president of sales and marketing at Arbitron; mortgage broker Jeff Wagner, national VP of OneTrust Home Loans in Houston;and Bill Gangloff, senior account executive at WYFF-TV, Greenville, SC and a repeat winner of the Hearst Eagle Award recognizing sales performance.”
Servant-heart sellers don’t focus on winning every sale. They focus on making sure their prospects win every sale. They adopt a long-term approach and develop profitable, enduring client relationships by prioritizing customers’ interests ahead of their own. Servant-heart salespeople operate in a wide variety of industries, but they all rely on 10 proven sales principles that work in every area of commerce:
1. You work for your customers.
Servant heart sellers identify so closely with their customers that they think of themselves as their client’s unpaid employees. They always want to deliver the best results, proving a level of loyalty that pays off for their customers and themselves.
“Servant-heart sellers love to sell, And they are good at it. But they will tell you that the real secret to their success is [an]…obsessive focus on customer outcomes. That is what leads to loyalty.”
When salespeople put customers’ interests first, the customers benefit. Similarly, salespeople benefit when satisfied, grateful customers recommend them to other potential clients. Unlike shortsighted salespeople seeking only today’s commission, servant-heart sales professionals elevate the traditional transactional sales relationship with customers to a mutually beneficial partnership.
2. Never worry about short-term sales results.
While successful salespeople usually win their companies’ sales awards, that’s not their ultimate goal. These awards represent only the results of their hard work. Servant-heart sellers have a more down-to-earth sales goal: To improve their customers’ outcomes.
“I’m in this for the long haul. I’ve been here for 25 years, and I always feel like if I do the right thing by the client, they’re going to be there for a long time.” (Barbara Anderson, general sales manager, WBAL-TV, Baltimore)
Servant-heart sellers are not transactional; Consider Rhonda Kuhlman, a Hearst senior account executive who sells advertising in Orlando, Florida.
In April and May 2020, the pandemic forced businesses everywhere to close. Honoring their advertising sales contracts was not the first thing on the list for big Orlando attractions such as DisneyWorld, Universal and Sea World. As lockdowns started, many of Kuhlman’s biggest clients called to cancel their contracts. Her response was to accept all cancellations and campaign pauses with calm encouragement. She told every client that she would take care of anything they needed.
This was not the typical response most salespeople gave Orlando companies at the time. Some insisted that, despite COVID-19, advertisers must honor their existing two-week cancellation policies, thereby undermining good will with their customers and forcing them and to waste money on worthless promotions.
These salespeople and their companies cared more about their immediate revenue than about their customers’ cratering sales. Consider which salesperson these big companies turned to when the market regained some normalcy.
3. Ask a lot of questions.
Most salespeople fail to give enough time to the “diagnosis” phase of the sales process. They don’t ask their prospects sufficient questions about their main concerns, pay adequate attention to their answers or make the effort to discover the big picture in their clients’ responses.
“Make more sales calls is a common sales-management instruction…But think about this: If more calls are done badly, all that drives is frustration, burnout and high sales-staff churn.”
This is the polar opposite of how servant-heart sellers operate. They ask as many insightful questions as necessary to learn precisely what their prospects want and need. This is how servant-heart sellers gain the necessary knowledge to serve their prospects well. They position themselves to propose specific, helpful solutions that match their clients’ product and service requirements.
Building an intelligent, practical, actionable diagnosis of the prospect’s business needs is impossible unless you ask intelligent, probing questions and analyze the answers carefully.
4. “Teach, don’t sell.”
Conventional salespeople often engage in “why selling,” which emphasizes why prospects should make a purchase. “How selling,” on the other hand, proves much more effective because it focuses on how your products or services can help your prospect. “How” presentations separate servant-heart selling from ordinary approaches because they employ teaching, not selling.
“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want.” (Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar)
“How selling” works only when salespeople fully understand all their prospects’ issues and concerns. Salespeople discover this information by asking intelligent questions. Then they devote themselves to teaching their customers how to use their products or services to their best advantage.
5. Never pressure your prospects; pushing to close always fails.
Everybody hates salespeople who use high-pressure tactics. No one wants to be coerced, pressured or manipulated into closing.
So, why do so many sales trainers focus on manipulative selling and closing techniques?Most closing techniques don’t work, anyway. High-pressure tactics can backfire and drive prospects away.
“Servant-heart sellers have a strong belief that if it’s good for the client, it will ultimately be good for them.”
Salespeople must always ask for the order, but that differs considerably from pressuring prospects to buy or using manipulative closing techniques. Be aware that “when you close hard, you’ll close less.”
Instead of pressuring prospects, servant-heart salespeople try to secure firm commitments by providing clients with specific solutions. Accept that your offering may not be right for all prospects. For example, Landmark National Bank’s Dean Thibault believes his company recognizes that not everyone is an ideal client, but he’s confident that he understands his offerings and can fully serve those they suit.
6. Fulfill the “responsibility of trust.”
All B2B salespeople want their customers to like them. This makes sense. Prospects purchase from salespeople they like. But getting prospects to like you shouldn’t be your ultimate objective. Instead, you want your prospects and customers to trust you. Trust is a foundational attribute that’s essential to establishing every other trait and skill you want to develop as a B2B salesperson.
“The goal is to be trusted, because trust is the first step to becoming a true partner with your customer.”
Building trust doesn’t necessarily take months or weeks. You can create trusting relationships if you enter every transaction well-prepared, humble and interested in being of service.
7. Sometimes the customer isn’t right.
Many servant-heart sellers routinely tell customers, “You could do that, but…” Then they follow up by explaining why the customers’ idea could create problems for them. Traditional salespeople almost never have this conversation. Their training teaches them to never say no to customers. In their minds, being negative might kill the deal.
“The most important decision I make every year is what accounts to fire.” (Randy Watson, retired, WTHR-TV Indianapolis)
These sellers always give in to their customers’ ideas, even when they know these ideas aren’t workable or will cause trouble for customers over time when they wrongly utilize or apply the products or services they’ve bought. These short-term sellers regard their sales cycles as a single sales transaction, closed and out the door. Servant-heart sellers always think about the long-term benefits to their clients.
8. Do more than necessary.
Servant-heart salesperson Oscar Mejia is a successful Univision sales representative in Dallas who remains humble despite his success. He wants his clients to think of him working for them, not the other way around.
“A true servant salesperson, to me, is not attached to the outcome of the sale. What they’re attached to is the best interest of the person they’re talking to.” (Oscar Mejia)
This is why – when one of Mejia’s clients is holding a promotional event – you’ll often find him collecting garbage in the client’s parking lot or making sure shopping carts get back to the store. Obviously, these aren’t the usual duties of a B2B salesperson, but Mejia deliberately goes above and beyond for his customers. That’s why they love him and why he experiences so little customer churn.
9. To maintain your pricing, don’t become a commodity.
For many traditional salespeople, price stands alone as their constant, paramount concern. Because they apply unvarying sales techniques to every customer, their products or services become the only things their customers care about or receive. This isn’t true with servant-heart sellers, whose customers also receive the servant-heart sellers’ personal attention and involvement. Thus, servant-heart sellers add value to whatever they sell.
“You know you’ve done a great job when your customer force becomes your sales force. If you’re doing this combative ‘demolition man’ selling, that never happens because you’ve won, and they’ve lost. So even though you’ve won the battle, you’ve lost the war.” (Rory Vaden, co-founder of Brand Builders)
Customers know servant-heart sellers are committed to ensuring their clients get the best possible results. They know servant-heart sellers will ask sufficient questions to make sure their solutions are the most appropriate choice for their customers, and they push back on client ideas that aren’t realistic, sensible or profitable for the client. You can’t commoditize this enduring, intangible value. As Warren Buffett said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
10. Keep learning.
According to Warren Buffett, the knowledge and information you learn compounds in value, like money in a high-interest savings account. Buffett’s daily goal is to become “a little bit smarter” than he was the day before.
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that really counts.” (Coach John Wooden)
Increased knowledge increases your capabilities, understanding and expertise, making you increasingly proficient. When you combine all those gains, increased learning makes you a better, more successful, more customer-centric, servant-hearted sales professional.
About the Author
Jim Doyle founded Jim Doyle and Associates, a national broadcast and cable-television sales-training and marketing-consulting firm. He is a board member of Second Heart Home.
Selling with a Servant Heart is a thought-provoking book by Jim Doyle that offers practical insights and strategies for sales professionals to excel in their careers while maintaining a strong sense of purpose and values. I had the opportunity to read and analyze the book, and here is my detailed review.
- The Power of Purpose: Doyle emphasizes the importance of understanding one’s purpose in sales, beyond just making money. He encourages readers to identify their “why” and align it with their sales goals, leading to a more fulfilling and sustainable career.
- Servant-Leadership: The author stresses the need for sales professionals to adopt a servant-leadership mindset, putting the customer’s needs first and prioritizing their satisfaction. This approach not only leads to increased customer loyalty but also fosters a positive work culture.
- Emotional Intelligence: Doyle highlights the role of emotional intelligence in sales, arguing that high EI leads to better communication, empathy, and decision-making skills. By developing these skills, sales professionals can build strong relationships and close more deals.
- Conscious Selling: The book introduces the concept of “conscious selling,” which involves being aware of one’s thoughts, emotions, and actions during the sales process. By cultivating self-awareness, sales professionals can manage their emotions, communicate more effectively, and make better decisions.
- The Importance of Storytelling: Doyle emphasizes the power of storytelling in sales, arguing that it helps establish rapport, convey complex ideas, and create a memorable experience for the customer. By crafting compelling stories, sales professionals can differentiate themselves from competitors and build trust with their customers.
- The Role of Gratitude: The author stresses the importance of gratitude in sales, arguing that it helps build stronger relationships, enhance customer loyalty, and foster a positive work culture. By expressing gratitude to customers and colleagues, sales professionals can create a more collaborative and supportive environment.
- The Impact of Technology: Doyle discusses the impact of technology on the sales industry, arguing that it has both empowered and challenged sales professionals. While technology can provide valuable insights and tools, it also requires sales professionals to adapt and develop new skills to remain competitive.
- The Importance of Mindset: The author highlights the importance of a growth mindset in sales, arguing that it helps professionals embrace challenges, learn from failures, and continue to improve their skills. By cultivating a growth mindset, sales professionals can overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.
- The Role of Feedback: Doyle stresses the importance of feedback in sales, arguing that it helps professionals identify areas for improvement, refine their skills, and enhance their performance. By seeking and incorporating feedback, sales professionals can become more effective and successful.
- The Future of Sales: The author concludes the book by discussing the future of sales, arguing that it will continue to evolve and require sales professionals to develop new skills and adapt to changing customer needs. By embracing these changes and staying curious, sales professionals can thrive in the ever-changing landscape.
- Practical advice: The book is filled with practical advice that readers can apply to their own sales efforts, making it a valuable resource for anyone looking to improve their sales skills.
- Real-world examples: Doyle provides real-world examples of how the principles of selling with a servant heart have been applied in successful sales efforts, making the book relatable and engaging.
- Focus on the customer: The book prioritizes the needs of the customer, making it a refreshing take on sales that is focused on serving others rather than just making a sale.
- Lack of case studies: While the book includes real-world examples, it would be beneficial to have more in-depth case studies to provide additional context and illustration of the principles in action.
- Some repetition: Some of the lessons and principles covered in the book are repeated throughout, which can make the book feel a bit repetitive at times.
If you are a salesperson who wants to be more successful, then I highly recommend Selling with a Servant Heart. It is a practical and informative book that can help you improve your sales skills and build stronger relationships with your customers.
Here are some additional thoughts on the book:
- I like that Doyle provides a lot of real-world examples to illustrate his points. This makes the book more relatable and easier to understand.
- I also appreciate that Doyle is realistic about the challenges of selling. He doesn’t promise that it will be easy, but he does provide a clear path for success.
- Overall, I found Selling with a Servant Heart to be a helpful and informative book. It is definitely worth a read if you are a salesperson who wants to be more successful.
Selling with a Servant Heart is an insightful and practical guide for sales professionals looking to enhance their skills and achieve greater success in their careers. By following the lessons outlined in the book, readers can develop a stronger sense of purpose, improve their emotional intelligence, and cultivate a growth mindset. The book’s emphasis on servant-leadership, storytelling, and gratitude also highlights the importance of these traits in building strong relationships and creating a positive work culture. Overall, Selling with a Servant Heart offers valuable insights and strategies for sales professionals looking to make a lasting impact in their industry.