One of my best friends is just about the greatest salesman you’ll ever meet. We got to know each other long ago when I was working as a copywriter at a software company and he was, naturally, working in the sales department. Most of the sales people who worked there were either on the obnoxious, overconfident side (compensating for something, perhaps) or they were the kind of pitiful, desperate need-to-make-the-mortgage-please-buy-from-me type of sales person (think Gil on The Simpsons).
Jason is not like that though. He has a calm, cool demeanor; he’s helpful without being cloying and gives you room to make your decision without being aloof or disengaged. I’m pretty sure he told his fair share of customers to go buy our competitor’s product if he really felt it would serve them better. Knowing Jason, his motivation to do so is two-fold: not only does the customer get what they want, but he doesn’t have to deal with them down the road when they’re unhappy with the product.
What makes him distinctly different from most salespeople is that he has a true passion for the art of selling. And to him that doesn’t mean just getting people to buy something, but rather helping people get what they need in a mutually beneficial relationship that makes both parties happy. He studies sales like an art. He understands what makes people tick and how to manage those relationships to everyone’s advantage.
We’ve been great friends ever since those days at the software company, even doing a little writing on the side together (anybody want to buy a couple of screenplays?).
Before Jason got married, we’d talk a lot about romantic relationships: finding them, what makes them work or not and how to game the system to have the most success in them. In talking about these things, we realized that managing sales and marketing relationships wasn’t all that different from how you pursue and manage romantic relationships. The steps to doing either are the same.