Selling from Purpose (Issue 614)

In which we are encouraged to define our purposes clearly, therefrom to guide our sales work.

A while back, I sat with several business owners, talking about our companies and teams, and the subject shifted to “purpose.”

Some of us had heard or read Raj Sisodia, author of Conscious Capitalism¸ on the importance of “purpose” in aligning  and guiding great companies such as Apple, Whole Foods, and Southwest Airlines, attracting and energizing employees who worked HARD because they believed so strongly in their companies’ purposes.

Some of us had read or heard about Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, in which Pink proposes that the most effective motivations are autonomy, mastery and purpose. To encourage people to engage fully and give their all, Pink argues, incorporate all three elements into motivation efforts.  Autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Our business owner discussion passed back and forth from “our purpose is simple:  sell beaucoup de  stuff, make a lotta dough” to “our purpose is to reduce physical abuse of kids.” That one was an eye popper.

I was reminded of the “Cathedral” story. (You’ve read this before, but stick with me.)

In brief:  There were three masons chipping chunks of granite from large blocks.  When asked what they were doing, the first replied, “I pound these rocks into those rocks until 5:00, then I go home. Hey, move over, you’re blocking my light.”   The second replied, “I’m shaping stone for that wall over there. It’s not bad work and I’ll be glad when it’s done.”  The third, working fervently and carefully, shaping the block before him, stepped back to check his work and gazed skyward, proclaiming proudly, “I… am building …a cathedral.”

So, yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard the story. So what?

If our purpose as sellers were simply “sell as much stuff as we can,” then (maybe) we would ask only the questions needed to qualify someone for a product, sell ‘em the product, and move on to the next …um…mark. Right? Why waste time on anything else?  Pound the  rocks until 5:00.  I qualified ‘em, I pitched ‘em, I closed ‘em.  It’s a job, I go home. Next?

But, suppose our purpose were a little broader and more powerful …. say, to help start up business owners master basic tools of managing … or to help successful business owners apply wealth to advance favored causes,  then (while we might be selling the same products or services as the next rep) perhaps our purpose would guide us to take more time, express deeper interest, understand more broadly, engage prospective clients in more diverse discussion, and earn clients’ trust… as we sell our tools and services in support of their  purposes and ours.

Just saying, it might be worth a gut check, now and again.  What’s our purpose in our sales roles?  And how does it affect who we attract as clients, how we work with those clients, and our sales results?


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