When it comes to sales, there’s a difference between everyday salespeople and what I would call “Sales Professionals.” As a professional, my philosophy is that I’m not selling something to a customer: they’re buying something. I want to help them navigate that process — not by pressuring them — but by learning their business so I can help them solve challenges.

In this three-part series on Sales Leadership, I’ll talk about the Three Pillars of Sales Leadership at Ignite. Part One: Always Be Curious.

“It’s not about us, it’s about them.”

Ignite’s mantra has always been “we’re an experience company.” We want to help our customers be better and more competitive in ways that matter to them, whether driven by their bottom line or top line. In the context of technology and technology companies — it’s not what the technology does — it’s what it does for them.

What sales should do is enable. Your customer has a problem they want to solve – the ‘why.’ Is it to gain a competitive advantage or drive their stock price up? Are they trying to enable their teams to collaborate in real time? More securely? I want to understand what they care about and why.

“If you’re not engaged in what the customer is trying to do, you’re just selling them stuff.”

How do you know what they care about and why? Ask. Most people will tell you the truth if they believe you’re asking for a good reason and not just to sell them something. Be inquisitive and be genuine. Do a little bit of research. Find out who the key stakeholders are in the organization. Who needs a problem solved, who is going to use the product, and what benefits or value are they looking to derive from it?

Understand their business. Who are their customers, how do they make their money, and what challenges do they have that you can help them solve? You don’t have to know their EBITA inside and out. But you should understand what they do for a living and how they make their money.

Know your customer and understand their business. Once we understand why, we can build a team — the customer, Ignite, and any vendor partners that are involved — and work towards a shared goal or outcome.

“A salesperson’s job is to ferret out the information and make sure both teams are aligned.”

The next step is to ensure the shared goal or outcome is well defined. It can’t just be “We’d like to have better collaboration.” Sure, everyone does – but what does that actually mean? Does better collaboration mean more timely? More people involved? More virtual? When all parties are aligned to the same outcome, you have an agreement about what you’re working towards and a frame of reference to guide the team’s actions, discussions, and decisions.

It’s not “always be closing”– it’s always be curious. The more time you spend learning about your customer and building a relationship with them, the more trust there is between you. That’s just one of the differences between salespeople and Sales Professionals. When there is value in your offer, and the customer knows you can be trusted, they will buy – not just once, but all the time.

Stay tuned for part two of my three-part series on sales leadership where I talk about the importance of setting and meeting expectations.

~ Greg Masniuk – National Sales Director, Ignite Collaboration.