Some of the most cynical (or perhaps worn out) of you will misread the title by thinking: “Dave, we are already slaves to our jobs, our managers, our businesses. What are you doing? “
I really think about applying the principles and concepts of “Servant Leadership” to sales and our relationships with customers.
The concepts of servant leadership can be traced back thousands of years to Lao-Tzu philosophies, the Indian treatise, Arhashastra, the Bible, many Stoics, and others. .
The modern incarnation of these principles was popularized by Robert Greenleaf in “The Servant As A Leader”, published in 1970. Many things have been written about these principles and variants by people like Ken Blanchard, Max Dupree and others.
Servant leadership is often referred to as an “upside down pyramid”.
The basis of the concept of servant or transformational leadership is about 10 principles:
- Healing (In a commercial sense, we can think of it more as coaching, mentoring, even problem solving)
- Consciousness (of ourselves and others)
- Commitment to the growth of people
- Construction of the community
I will not go into these principles, they are reasonably explicit. There are also a number of articles on concepts so just Google’s “Principles of Servant Leadership.”
But these principles really reflect a state of mind and different behaviors from those who execute them. They are more ‘other’ concentrated, more collaborative, more inclusive than many traditional command / control hierarchy styles.
We apply these principles, not only because they are people-centric, but because they produce results. There are many examples, including such different organizations in the US Army and Southwest Airlines.
While these are great principles for improving performance within an organization, I look at them from a different angle, and if we apply them to the way we engage our customers?
What would happen if we looked at applied concepts as “Servant Salespersonship?”
People write about aspects of this topic all the time – we put labels like Customer centric, Buyer focused, and so on on this concept.
But what if we examine the principles of servant leadership applied to sales?
- Listening evidence in customer engagement and understanding of their goals, dreams, challenges, problems. Yet, all too often, we spend the time talking. Or we listen selectively, until the markers go into pitch mode.
- Empathy – more and more, we understand the importance of empathy; to understand things from their point of view, to put oneself in their place, to see things through their eyes.
- Healing – in a very real sense, selling is about healing, helping the client solve problems, helping them learn to improve.
- Consciousness – there are some perspectives here. The first focuses on our knowledge of the customer, their problems, challenges and opportunities. The second is to broaden customer awareness of their own situations, new methods, ways to improve, and so on.
- Persuasion – we talk about it a lot in sales, generally from the point of view of pitching. I prefer to consider this as a way to help the client create and possess a compelling need for change.
- Conceptualization – it’s essential, it’s really about helping the customer to create a vision of a new future and how they could get there.
- Forethought encompasses the wisdom of past experiences, applying them to help the client achieve his goals. We take advantage not only of the customer experience, but also experiences working with other customers in their attempts to solve similar problems. We leverage these principles in our own process of effective customer engagement.
- Stewardship – this term is no longer fashionable, but really speaks about personal ownership, responsibility and responsibility. We see this stewardship helping us to focus in our role within our own businesses, as well as in trying to be really helpful to our customers.
- Commitment to growing people – this should be explicit. It is a driver for our own learning and growth, as well as working with our customers, teaching them, helping them learn, helping them to address their problems / opportunities, and growing personally / organizationally.
- Building the Community – As salespeople working in complex B2B sales, we know that we need support within our own business, partners and others. We know that our ability to develop relationships within our corporate accounts and our territories continually strengthens trust and relationships.
Think about how your ability to communicate with your customers in a meaningful way would change. Think about how the value you create with your customers will be magnified. All that is needed is to adapt a state of mind and implement the principles of the server sales service.