Almost everyone likes dogs.
In fact, some people love their dogs, and I guess we did too. Over the years we had three miniature schnauzers and they lived in the house with my wife and three children.
But I grew up on a farm where the dogs lived outside and people lived inside.
Nowadays that has changed.
When we had schnauzers, our dogs not only lived in our house, they slept in small beds in the corner of our bedroom. (Although I bet they slept in bed with my wife when I was gone…just a hunch).
Our dogs were constantly in our laps or by our sides; they liked being our friends.
Because they liked being petted.
When you pet your dog they feel love and approval from their owner, and this approval is a feeling that every dog strives for every day.
Pardon the analogy, but we sales people are a lot like dogs.
We are emotional creatures, constantly seeking the customer’s approval. And as a veteran field seller myself, on more than one occasion I have found myself acting like one of those loveable canines.
I have, at times, carefully structured my day so I could be “petted.”
I had favorite dealers and favorites customers who I could always count on to give me a good “grooming” of my ego anytime I stopped by. It felt good to be invited in for coffee, to be fussed over by the wife, or to have the hired man tell me how smart I was.
So rather than calling on a particular dealer or customer as their leader and challenging them to go to the next level with me, I was there to seek approval.
That’s right; I was there to be “petted.”
Being respected trumps being liked
It’s not that being liked by your dealers and customers is a bad thing. However, being liked can not take the place of being respected in this business.
You can like someone because they are funny or nice, but you may have little respect for their intelligence or business savvy. Thus, customers may like you a lot, but they may lack respect for you.
And if they don’t respect you, the minute you ask them to do something they don’t agree with, they resist.
If they truly respect you, they do what you ask them to do because they perceive you as being a smart leader, with their best interest in mind.
In today’s marketing place, customers want and need leadership from reps they respect.
Farming is a very serious business and growers need serious people helping them make the right decisions. They found they can no longer simply buy off of friendships — from people they like, but who bring no other value.
Instead, they first want someone they can respect for the value they bring. And if you truly respect someone for their knowledge and abilities, there is pretty good chance you will like them also.
For sales reps to have the right kind of relationship with customers, being respected and being liked have to come in the right order — respect first and like second.
Sales people can no longer call on dealers or customers and expect to bring value if they are only there to be liked (petted) and not there to lead. Farmers already have enough dogs in their kennels to pet whenever they want to — probably including some of your competitors.
Don’t let yourself be one of them
If you want your sales territory to soar in sales and profits, you must make sure they do what you ask them to do out of respect for your knowledge and abilities, and not because you work hard to get them to like you.
You may lose an occasional customer because they’re not willing to do what you’re asking. But don’t worry; this just means those “dog lovers” liked you as long as you were willing to be “petted” like all of the other dogs calling on them.
But unlike those dogs, this one had a mind of its own.