Harper Lee’s character, Atticus Finch, gave me some advice in high school that I don’t believe I’ll ever forget. "First of all," he said, "if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." This may seem like an extreme example of the old “walk a mile in my shoes” adage, but there is beauty and empathy achieved in truly attempting to assume another’s role, or skin, that I just never got from a pair of shoes. And while the lessons learned in high school differ drastically (usually) from those I take from my experiences today, the advice has never failed to fit any situation that saw me needing to empathize and adjust my point of view to better understand a person, place, or thing, and it has been priceless in my journey through the world of sales. This approach was demonstrated beautifully in a story shared by John Coker, our Director of Sales. It is with his permission that I share it with you now.
John Coker, our Director of Sales at 2Win!, had spent over four years in the field as a rep with 2Win! before transitioning into a management role. There came a time that saw a former salesperson leaving the team, and a new team member onboarding, which left a short gap in the one on one connection to a client. This led John in his management role to now jump back into the “boots on the ground” territory to ensure that customers were being given the personal and personalized care that we challenge ourselves to deliver daily. He certainly could have given that task to someone else, but he chose to embrace the challenge, having no idea how this would end up growing him as a leader.
Re-entering the field of sales after coaching his team in a managerial leadership role saw John approaching each interaction differently (and more closely) than he did before. The second time around saw him with the added bonus of an extra perspective, or leadership lens, through which to view all aspects of the interaction, and he was able to gain a new appreciation for the frustrations that sales reps experience while out in the field day to day. It also offered him the opportunity to reflect on how he, as one in a leadership role, might best support his team.
While his time in the field the second time around might have been brief, the lessons learned were vast. He reflects:
“As I got back into focusing on the sales role, I realized I am better at selling today because of my leadership experience...In the end, it is all about perspective. If you are a sales rep, attempt to put yourself in the position of a sales manager. Empathize with them, if possible. Assume the best of intentions. If you are a sales manager or director, don’t forget what it was like to be in the field. Can you take a step back and attempt to see things from another point of view? It could end up making you a better salesperson, or leader, if you can.”
We could all benefit personally, and professionally, by taking a moment to heed the advice of Atticus. Are we considering all that is considerable or might we have a very limited scope in our view of people and situations? If we can take a moment to pause and consider all that every valuable position contains and requires, it may be that we find ourselves better equipped to serve our clients, as well as each other.