Written by Jay Greenzweig
– I recently had the opportunity to reflect on my 30+ years in business and consider the most memorable moments that make up the DNA of my life, my career, and our company. One of the most powerful events was my philosophical evolution from generating sales to enabling a “passion for purchase.” Early in my career, I was counseled by my employers to focus on sales, targets, quotas, and to create an environment that stretched our customers’ logical investment. This sales framework is common in business, and it thrived when those responsible for sales were competitive; however, it bred a distrustful environment between sales colleagues and customers.
A standard process within Fortune 500 companies is to define sales targets and customer activity quotas for a week, month, and year that have little consideration for the business environment or customer needs and preferences. The foundational goal has been to generate revenue, with limited consideration for the longer-term value of earning the respect and trust that ultimately enables true partnership.
In the early 2000s, I left direct pharma to become an entrepreneur and since then have had both success and failures that have made me reconsider that sales business model. I now know enabling a passion for purchase is a much more challenging, yet rewarding, business objective. Consider that the word sales generally has a negative connotation in most peoples’ minds, since the sales process is often perceived as pushy and aggressive. We have all encountered a commission-driven salesperson who tried to sell us something we didn’t need, or we were sold something that was too high-priced or didn’t perform as expected.
As I was becoming an entrepreneur and establishing our company’s business philosophy, I remembered a quote by my father: “People love to buy and hate to be sold.” Those words changed me, and today they still burn intensely in my mind as I consider both our internal customers (employees) and our external customers (clients). I ask you to consider some other powerful words that are critical to creating a passion for purchase: respect, trust, and partnership. These words are meaningful and very difficult to achieve because they are not directly connected to title, pedigree, or experience and are earned over time by genuine action. Simply being titled manager or CEO doesn’t mean that one is trusted or respected, which makes genuine partnership challenging.
In the sales generation model, the product or service provider seldom achieves partnership status; therefore, they are often commoditized to be easily replaced due to micro-level price or performance gaps. In contrast, the “passion for purchase” vision requires genuine understanding and care for internal and external relationships, along with careful balance, to generate revenue and profits. Partnership can still be profitable while embracing the goal of earning respect and shared trust through vision, ideas, opportunities, and execution over time. The great news is that this concept can also have a powerful effect on a company’s most important differentiator—its employees. Embracing the partnership model as a goal with your team will help to establish accountability, reduce turnover, and enable loyalty by creating a healthy vision that includes honest communication and transparency.
Do you hate to be sold but love to buy when you feel good and trust the product and/or the person who helped with the purchase? If so, then why does business continue to set nebulous goals that embrace unhealthy competitiveness and reinforce a lack of trust that inevitably leads to commoditization? People and customers today want, expect, and deserve more, and companies must be dedicated to earning the respect and trust that are the foundational DNA of partnership.
I am proud that our organization has never set quotas and requires every team member to have ethics, along with passion for doing what is genuinely in the best interest of our customers. We never settle for being just a vendor. I truly hope that our future employees, clients, partners, and even our competitors consider the challenge and reward of striving to earn partnership. The easy achievements are often forgotten, while the tougher challenges are often the memorable moments that change our lives.