Last week, I met with Emily Mercurio, CEO and Co-Founder of CivicMapper, a geospatial information services and technology company. Emily shared a great story that helps to explain why she identifies as sales reluctant.
While Emily was a freshman in college she worked at a shoe store. One day, a customer was looking to purchase a pair of shoes that she could use to walk to campus, which was over a mile from her house. The customer held up a pair of casual sneakers (Keds, to be specific) and asked if they would do the job.
Emily responded that no, the shoes wouldn’t be good for walking over a mile. Given that the store did not have athletic shoes, only dress and casual shoes, Emily kindly informed the customer that they didn’t have any shoes that would meet her needs and that she should try another shoe store.
Emily’s manager overheard this interaction and pulled her aside. When he asked why Emily didn’t encourage the customer to buy the sneakers, Emily said that she didn’t want to lie to the customers. Her manager responded, “It’s not lying, it’s selling!” And then, Emily was fired.
Emily shared with me, “That experience definitely influenced me and gave me bad feelings around sales and salespeople. No one wants to be a liar!” That was Emily’s last stint in retail and it had a long lasting negative impact on her willingness to sell. It’s taken Emily more than a decade to find her way back to selling and realize that she had been avoiding it for all the wrong reasons.
Anyone who has had an experience similar to Emily’s—or who has been lied to by a salesperson—is unlikely to want to sell. We need a new paradigm for thinking about sales. It’s hard work to challenge existing models but we owe it to the Emilys out there.
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