Selling by Giving: How Generosity and Vulnerability Leads to Loyalty | Sales
By Sheena McKinney, Executive Assistant to Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
I recently wrote about how Giving is Better, Receiving is Hard where I share how really hard it can be to receive (help, get compliments, etc.). I led with the old adage “It’s better to give than receive” and I believe it’s true. But in business, in sales specifically, does this apply? If so, how?
According to Allen Cheng’s summary of author Adam Grant’s’book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.
People are one of three things:
- Takers like to get more than they give. They feel the world is a zero-sum game, for them to win means others must lose. They self-promote and make sure they get credit. They help others strategically, when the benefits to them outweigh their personal costs.
- Givers like to give more than they get. They help others when the benefits to others exceeds their personal costs.
- Matchers like to balance and giving exactly, practicing quid pro quo.
In our personal relationships, giving is more familiar territory. In business, generally speaking, being a “matcher” is more common. But is that better? If you want to be successful, giving is actually the better way to go as long as you don’t give so much you shirk your responsibilities or give away “the company store” in the process. My dad, who recently passed away, was a huge giver who modeled giving and fostered it in others. He tried owning his own business, but it didn’t succeed because he was too nice and didn’t want to charge or collect from people what he was worth.
Grant talks about how and why giving can be “better” in sales:
Givers build larger, more supportive networks; they inspire the most creativity from their colleagues; and they achieve the most successful negotiations. Givers find ways to grow the pie and take their share of it.
It turns out givers are the most effective salespeople, showing higher results across industries … Givers want to help their customers solve their problems, and they use powerless communication to achieve it. In sales, givers ask lots of questions to understand the clients’ scenario, customize a solution to best match the client’s needs, then allow the client to make her own conclusion.
Givers practice powerless communication by asking questions, signaling vulnerability, and seeking advice. This reduces ego tensions, helps them gather more information, and makes for more effective sales and negotiations. Powerless communication in sales also works because, as a consumer, you’re flooded with strong messaging all day, from advertisers to politicians, and when you hear a powerful sales pitch, you tend to get suspicious. You don’t want to be tricked, and you prefer not feeling manipulated. A giving, powerless approach guides you to making your own conclusions.
When giving a presentation, revealing vulnerability and humanity make you approachable and get people to empathize with you. Givers are interested in helping others, not in establishing dominance, so they’re not afraid to show vulnerability. In contrast, takers worry that showing vulnerability will limit their ability to gain dominance. Their powerful communication, however, can clash with other people who want to assert dominance, or when the audience is skeptical of your influence, and the message gets lost.
Powerless communication only works, however, if you signal your competence in other ways, such as credentials or the content of your speech. If you’re competent and vulnerable, audiences like you more. But if you’re incompetent and vulnerable, audiences like you less.
It will be an exercise in learning to “receive” for my boss and President of Heinz Marketing, Matt Heinz to hear this…. He’s a huge giver. I’m honored to work with and for him. I believe much of his success can be credited to his generosity. It is in fact one of our core values here at Heinz Marketing.
He’s also a great salesman, presenter and speaker because of his giving nature and humility. He’s extremely competent and also willing to be vulnerable.
On a side note—Matt describes himself as an introvert, but I think he’s an ambivert… yet another reason for his success.
Grant explains it this way:
Despite the widespread assumption that extraverts are the most productive salespeople, research has shown weak and conflicting relationships between extraversion and sales performance… Ambiverts (a balance of extrovert and introvert) achieve greater sales productivity than extraverts or introverts. Because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening, ambiverts are likely to express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade and close a sale but are more inclined to listen to customers’ interests and less vulnerable to appearing too excited or overconfident.
Whether you’re an extrovert, introvert, or ambivert, giving— both personally and professionally– truly is better… and not just for what you get out of it.
Like your personality type, your tendency to be a taker, giver, or matcher is largely innate. But you can grow in these areas as Jason Connell learned. In his article “Becoming a Giver: The Most Important Lesson in a Decade” he says his mentor told him:
“You know, the real trick to business is being generous. Give as much as you can. The more good you do for the world, the better your life will go.
“Try to give the exact thing that you’re looking for. If you want to become successful, figure out how to help other people succeed. If you want happiness, spread happiness. That’s how it works.
“But there’s a catch: you actually have to care. You have to be generous for the sake of being generous, not for the sake of trying to gain something. If you can do that, everything will go better than you can imagine. I don’t know why or how this works; I just know it does. It’s really that easy.”
And herein lies the reason I so respected my dad. He listened and cared. These are also some of the reasons I respect Matt Heinz.
The bottom line is this. The best way you can sell is to listen and care. These are truly gifts that keep on giving.