Chutzpah and the art of sales

Chutzpah is an official word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary  and as expected the definition is quite conservative: "personal confidence or courage that allows someone to do or say things that may seem shocking to others.". Example: Ask a bald guy if you can borrow his comb. So what does chutzpah have to do with sales? Great sales people who understand their role in the business universe, have the courage to shock their prospective clients. They know that the transaction phase in the process is the very last thing that occurs. To get there, they have to earn the right to ask for the order. This right isn't earned by taking clients to lunch, golfing or asking about the kids. It is earned the old fashioned way; passion to serve clients by understanding their world.

Establishing and nurturing credibility is a must for anyone in sales. Part of that process requires asking tough questions. For example, to move a prospect from over-fixation on price, you must have the chutzpah to tell her she is missing the big picture; value and benefits then return on investment. Successful sales people are not afraid to challenge their clients because they understand the counter productive dynamics of the sales process: no one likes sales people and many perceive the process as win-lose where the sales person has to give up something for a win to take place.

There is another aspect of chutzpah that, in my mind, is even more important: having the courage to walk away from a sale. A win-lose transaction does not make sense. If the prospect insists on this type of outcome two scenarios may have played out: one, you have not properly communicated your value in relation to the problem(s) you are solving for your prospect. Two, she does not care about that value and just needs to win. The key to a long lasting relationship and the ability to ask for referrals stems from a foundation of trust that must be formed between a buyer and a seller.

In the following examples simply replace Chutzpah with "you've got some nerve to be..."

  1. Asking for the order before you've earned the trust and strongly conveyed your value as well as what makes you different than the competition.
  2. Walking away from a lose-win sale
  3. Asking for referrals when you have failed to deliver
  4. Showing up after months of silence trying to sell me something
  5. Asking for a meeting and knowing nothing about my business, industry, competition or me.

A 2011 study of thousand highly successful sales reps (stay tuned for a blog on the subject) identified "challenger" as a profile of the most successful reps: they are not afraid to challenge their customers and point out failures in their thinking , decision or operations.

We're all born with a Chutzpah gene. Use it wisely though, sometime Chutzpah can lead to a slap in the face too...