The Heart of the Matter


When customers are playing hardball and the competition is breathing down our necks, more often than not, the winner’s edge comes from deep within.

Former Texas Governor Ann Richards once quipped, “In Texas, politics is a contact sport.” Sales can be a contact sport, too — only, in sales, the real question is this: Are you tough enough? When you face a fierce competitor, a challenging selling situation, or a difficult customer, do you have the inner fortitude to fight with everything you’ve got?

What brought that question to mind was a local sixth-grade football game I witnessed recently. Odd as it may seem, what I saw on the field really inspired my selling. In professional football, many of the players are refrigerator-size, but at the level I was watching, the boys’ body sizes still vary widely. During one play, a large-for-his-age running back came tearing down the field, head down and the ball tucked firmly under his arm, bowling over or outrunning the defenders. There was just one player left for him to get by and score a touchdown.

The Will to Win

That last defender, a little guy, maybe half his opponent’s size, stepped directly into the path of the kid with the ball. Wham! The minnow stopped the whale in his tracks. Ouch! For that little guy to step out, risk the pain, and put himself on the line for his team — well, let’s just say that as the cheers from the sidelines filled the air, I knew he had a heart much bigger than his body.

Well, as I said, that incident got me thinking, and now I want to pose another question: When you’re out there selling, are you playing with heart, or do you just go through the motions? So often, we have customers who want more than we can give them, and for less money than we can afford to charge. Meanwhile, our sales rivals are cooing that they will gladly do more for less. Add up the impact of all these negative factors and it can feel like someone twice your size is running straight for you too. Wham!

Yet successful salespeople sell with heart — they summon courage and nerve to step out in front of their opposition, and then they play the sales game for all they’re worth, even when the odds are stacked against them. They deliver well-rehearsed responses to tough objections. They ask insightful questions that make their clients stop and think. They lead these tough customers to deduce and acknowledge that their offering really is the best fit for the customer’s total needs. That’s what selling with heart is all about.

Bruising Encounters

I’ll admit that selling with heart can be dangerous. Sometimes, you’ll be knocked down and carried off the field. But often, when the dust clears, the ball — or rather, the purchase order — will end up in your hands.

There’s an old saying that sales is the highest-paying hard work and the lowest-paying easy work. If you’re selling without heart, your sales results will reveal that lack of drive. Your commission checks will be small, and you probably won’t win any of those fabulous trips and prizes some of your peers get to enjoy.

On the other hand, if you’re selling with heart — if you’re brave enough to step out in front of a customer or competitor who is running hard — and if you can muster the courage to start selling and keep selling until their cleats have tattooed you from head to foot, the results will speak for themselves — and loudly. You’ll end up with more orders, for larger amounts, and from more customers, too.

You Gotta Believe

The trick to selling with heart is that you can’t just add that vital ingredient. It’s not as simple as the pinch of salt that makes a recipe work, and it’s a good deal more complicated than simply having prepared a polished conclusion to your typical sales presentation. Rather, you must connect your selling efforts to what you really, truly care about. That’s where the heart comes in. It really doesn’t matter what fuels your inner drive to sell, what matters is making the connection.

Many successful salespeople connect their selling heart to their product, company, or philosophy. They fiercely believe their offerings are the absolute best widgets or services in the entire universe. They are evangelists for the products they represent, and their passion is infectious. When I speak to meetings of salespeople, that’s one of the emotions I always try to convey. After, when we’re enjoying coffee and conducting our post mortems on the lessons learned, it’s not unusual for members of the audience to approach me and say: “You know, when I came in here, I didn’t really care that much about selling. But after I heard you, I’m excited about selling.” It takes a heart to feel that excitement — and discovering yours will fatten your bottom line.

What’s in it for me? Other salespeople reach similar levels by always keeping in mind what sales success does for them and their families — little things like a comfortable income, a nice home, and a plush vacation every year. At the other end of the scale, the advantages that come from putting heart into selling are even more obvious. As the poet Rudyard Kipling might have put it had he written an additional stanza to his famous poem “If:” You’ll keep your job when those about you are losing theirs.

Born to Pitch

The luckiest of all are those salespeople who just plain love to sell — just as some athletes play for the love of the game. These reps look forward to the idea of talking to new people, the challenge of the selling game and the opportunity to change their prospective customer’s minds and win the sale. These are the kind of folks you find on debate teams. After the football game, when I spoke to Coach Jim, the mentor of the small-but-mighty football player who stopped that bruiser’s charge toward the end zone, his answer didn’t surprise me: Turns out the hero of the game simply loves playing football with every fiber of his being — including, of course, his heart.

So, if you want to sell more, remember to sell from the heart and with the heart. Don’t just show up, go through the motions and hope for the best. Instead, figure out what really motivates you to sell at your peak level, and put that passion on display in your sales calls. And if all else fails, if you come down with a case of pre-presentation nerves, just remember what Coach Jim has to say on the subject. It’s something his dad taught him years ago, and it applies just as much to tough sales calls as it does on the gridiron: “Remember, they can’t eat you.” Happy selling!

Michelle Nichols  is a sales consultant, trainer, and Vistage speaker based in Houston.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *