In 1980 the commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, General Max Thurman, introduced the recruiting slogan “Be All You Can Be.” It was successfully used for over 20 years to transform the image of the Army. Primarily intended to attract the type of recruit the “new” Army needed as it emerged from the Vietnam public relations nightmare, it was understood to mean a more educated young person – a recruit who would typically join the Air Force. The Army theme was so successful because among other things, it had a two-fold meaning – it suggested a career in the Army would offer unlimited opportunity in areas of interest to an Army recruit, while still accomplishing the overall mission of the Army.
We sales professionals face a daunting and multipurpose set of challenges in our careers as well. We are called upon to efficiently perform the functional aspects of selling (uncovering and developing needs and providing solutions) while balancing those activities with effective interpersonal skills. Our successes require we master both sides of the equation. That balancing act requires knowledge, skills and traits that demand peak performance in every interaction with customers; failure in any aspect of one element can negatively impact the overall outcome no matter how well everything is done.Functional selling alone has been described as “selling from the neck up” and is overly reliant on analysis and knowledge without recognizing the importance of human relations. This kind of selling not only overlooks the value of the human side of our customer, but it tends to cut us off from the support and future opportunities that enable growth and long-term business.Similarly, overuse of interpersonal effectiveness is often the result of a lack of knowledge about our own offerings and a true understanding of our customer’s needs. Lacking such knowledge, the interpersonal expert depends on personal rapport as a compensation for deficient technical abilities and problem solving that would greatly benefit their customer, if only applied.
In either case, being out of balance is being out of position with our customers and we can easily find ourselves replaced by a more proficient problem-solver who is able to equally blend the functional with the interpersonal. Such a positional salesperson recognizes and finds opportunity to identify needs and provide solutions to customers, while simultaneously relating to customers as the unique and individual people they are.
To “be all you can be” as a sales professional is to model the attitudes and behaviors that create a standard of excellence by which all other competitive efforts are judged.
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Have you ever found yourself lacking interpersonally as a result of focusing too heavily on the functional aspects of selling? How did you correct your balance? Tell us about your experiences at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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