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I was speaking with a former coaching client recently. She shared a piece of sales advice that she’d once gotten:
“You have to be a little evil to sell.”
I’m disturbed to know that someone out there is giving this advice. It’s this kind of advice that makes sales a dirty word. It’s exactly this kind of advice that provides cover for bad service delivery and worse behavior.
And the truly awful part? This is the advice that makes moms cringe when they hear you’re in sales. Hopefully we can all agree to not make our moms cringe from now on. If nothing else, do it for your mom.
But hearing the phrase made me think: why would someone say such a nasty thing? Who said we have to be evil? And under what circumstances would we have to believe that?
Let’s start with the opposite idea and go from there: you have to be virtuous to sell. What would have to be true to sell under these circumstances?
We’d have to be 1) truly improving people’s conditions, and 2) improving their conditions enough for them to receive a benefit greater than the price they paid.
Improving someone’s condition comes down to reducing their pain, increasing their benefit, or some combination of the two. You know, money made, time gained, that kind of thing.
And delivering a benefit greater than what we charge can sometimes be calculated, but certainly observed directly based on client satisfaction, feedback, and referral volume.
And this, my friend, is where the Evil Gap comes in.
Let’s treat the value that we deliver as an equation. We know that the value delivered must be greater than the price paid by our client. So the only way to sell something that falls short is by filling in that gap somehow. Enter evil!
Yes, I said it.
The only reason you’d need to be “a little evil” is if you’re selling something to someone that you shouldn’t be selling.
Maybe you’re selling to the wrong person (rather than your Perfect Fit Client). Maybe you’re selling an underperforming product or service. Maybe you’re selling at the wrong time rather than telling your client they’re not ready yet.
Whatever the case, “evil” is what’s filling the gap between the value that you’re actually delivering and the value your client should be getting.
Completing a sale to the right person who derives real value? No evil required. In fact, you should feel good about this. You’re helping.
Let me put my compassion hat on for a second. Perhaps whoever muttered that awful and damaging “evil” phrase really meant that people need to be comfortable and confident when they sell.
To that I say yes!!!
Because a lack of confidence creates a value gap for your client, just as an inferior offer does. If you don’t clearly and confidently believe in what you’re selling, your client won’t either. Your lack of confidence will be transferred to them. It’s no good. There will be a perceived value gap, which is tantamount to the real thing.
So the real question is: if you or your team are having trouble selling, what’s creating a value gap? Is it an inferior offer, is it the wrong market fit, is it confidence, or is it something else entirely?
Whatever it is, please don’t allow yourself to take the vapid, lazy approach of “being evil.” The world should be better than that.
We are better than that.
Do the work and deliver something that’s truly valuable, and you can be confident in. That’s the answer.
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