The Heart of the Salesperson



We all have an impression of what a salesperson is in our minds.  Sometimes it is negative, sometimes positive, but mostly our descriptions straddle the good and bad.  As you are reading this, some words are probably bubbling up to your mind.  As an exercise, in ten seconds write down the first words that come to mind when you think “salesperson”.

Some words are pretty obvious.  There are words that go to the core of what sales is about such as “competitive” and “persistent”.  Some certainly have a negative connotation like “manipulative” or “slimy”.  Then there are words that shed a more positive light on the profession like “empathetic” and “knowledgeable”.

Then there is the word “passionate”. I think you would agree that a sales person that is not at least somewhat passionate is going to have a challenging time. As I often write, sales is one of the toughest professions there is.  In sales, you are in the business of “moving people” to borrow a phrase from Daniel Pink. You cannot move someone to be passionate about what you are selling if you are not passionate about it yourself.

Passion alone however is not enough. I liken passion to being in a phase of life.  You can more in and out of passion, because like anything, our interests and desires change. When I was young, I collected comic books, but now not so much.  I thought that I would like to pursue a career in medicine when I went to college, and then I moved to engineering. The same happens with jobs, you get excited at first, and then over time the energy fades.

With the challenges of day to day selling, it is hard to remain enthusiastic and energized. There are days when the passion just isn’t there. Passion is a good boost, but like any energy drink, eventually there is the inevitable crash. There needs to be something more than passion that gets sales people through the daily grind and constant hustle.

Heart is not often a word associated with sales. However, heart is at the core from where our passion springs. It also is what separates authentic from forced. You can tell heart immediately in a sales pitch or in a job candidate. You feel the words resonate.  You get a strong sense of purpose. Despite difficulties and struggles, there is a sustaining hope and air of encouragement. It is not too dissimilar to the characteristics of great entrepreneurs.  Sure, passion and energy are important, but ultimately it comes down to heart and without heart there is nothing.

You may wonder however what exactly does heart mean when it comes to sales and success? Often people make the mistake of believing great salespeople are motivated by money. Certainly salespeople can sell a lot of product being motivated by commissions.  Great salespeople however have a different goal in mind. Last week as I thought about the separation of good from great, I shared this quote:

“Good salespeople sell lots of product. Great salespeople make lots of customers successful.”

Great salespeople are motivated by a heart for the customer.  Money certainly matters, but it is the end result of making a positive impact in the lives of one’s customers.  In short, it is the heart for customers and people.  Many of the best characteristics of great salespeople such as empathetic, helpful, and consultative evolve from that very heart to see others successful.  The “sale” is not simply a transaction and means to a commission check, it is a continuing journey with the customer.

The hardened pros that read this might scoff.  Let them.  The type of professionalism they represent is on the way out.  People that buy want to engage with salespeople that are trustworthy, knowledgeable, and authentic.  You cannot be authentic if you shield yourself with layers of corporate mannerisms.  A follow sales professional Jim Keenan says it best:

“Professionalism is a passion killer. I’m going on record as saying that right now.  We need to stop demanding professionalism and demand more passion and heart.”

Yes, we need more heart.  That is where the drive is to be excellent. That is where the desire is to seek and learn and improve.  That is how we wake up every morning with the energy to tackle the day and survive the slings and arrows of sales.  Heart is our defense against negativity and springboard for overcoming every unsavory aspect and perception of sales.

You cannot sell if you do not care about what you are selling and who you are selling to.  That is the type of soulless selling that gives the sales profession its poor reputation.  Caring requires being passionate about what you do and who you do it for, and the wellspring of passion is heart.  So let’s bring more heart into our careers in sales, show it through our actions and words, and may we bring that heart in every interaction with our customers because that is why we choose sales in the first place.



Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by MattysFlicks


About the author: Mark Birch

Mark is an early stage technology investor and entrepreneur based in NYC. Through Birch Ventures, he works with a portfolio of early stage B2B SaaS technology startups providing both capital and guidance in the areas of marketing, sales, strategic planning and funding.

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