I’m in sales, and sometimes I struggle with connecting my job to God’s broader purpose for me. Obviously in sales you must convince someone to buy, but how do I sell in such a way that I humanize and love people while still meeting my sales numbers?
Few professions suffer from negative stereotypes like the sales profession does, and with good reason. Many of us know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a sales pitch in a car dealership or at a makeup counter that seems far more about the salesperson’s desire to make their quota than our need for what they’re selling. The discomfort we feel points to a better way.
When we reframe our thinking about sales as a way of living out the second greatest commandment—to love our neighbor as we love ourselves—we can pave a path toward sales success that truly honors God.
Know Your Customers
Many of the salespeople I train have seven-figure quotas and the allure of six-figure bonuses if they exceed those quotas. The guiding principle of my training is to focus on the people to whom they’re selling, rather than what or how much they have to sell. Products and services are not ends in themselves, but means to solving problems or creating opportunities—not just for companies as a whole, but for the people who work in them. And when it comes to knowing customers as people, Christians have a level of understanding about their significance that the world does not.
The guiding principle of my training is to focus on the people to whom they’re selling, rather than what or how much they have to sell.
What matters first and most about the people you sell to is not their company or the title on their LinkedIn profile: it’s that they are human beings made in the image of God, possessing all of the beauty and brokenness that entails. Grounding your engagement with them on that truth will help you see them not as personas to prospect but as people who are our neighbors, whom Jesus has commanded us to love (Mark 12:31).
To borrow an idea from Augustine, contemporized by Jen Wilkin: “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” The journey to loving your customers begins with getting to know them and the world they inhabit. What does their work involve? What’s limiting their success? What’s going in on their world that could affect their work in ways they don’t have the time or knowledge to anticipate?
As you work to gather that knowledge about what your customers need, you are echoing (albeit imperfectly!) the way our heavenly Father knows our needs and lovingly works to meet them (Matt. 6:26).
Serving with Sales
The next step is framing your product or service as the most helpful and effective means to addressing their needs, often by resolving a challenge or creating a new opportunity for greater success. Doing this with integrity requires you to understand all the different options a customer might have—from doing nothing at all, to choosing a competitor—and to guide your customers toward your offering as the best solution for their situation.
You can take pleasure in devoting yourself to the good work of selling to them in order to meet their pressing needs.
Integrity challenges abound here, of course. If there’s a gap in your product where a prospect has a genuine need, neighbor-love requires being honest about it, not deflecting attention away from it long enough to get them to buy anyway.
If you have a measure of autonomy over pricing and discounting, use that autonomy to negotiate terms that benefit your customers, and don’t exploit them. Doing otherwise is to engage in the kind of dishonest profit-making practices that betray customer trust, brings trouble to you (Prov. 1:18–19; 15:27), and displeases God (Prov. 11:1).
If you’re rarely in situations where you can pursue this approach relative to your quota, or when temptations to cut corners seem like the only sure path to success, those are indicators it’s time to find a different product or service to sell. But when you’re in a place where the solutions you offer can make a difference in the lives of your customers, you can take pleasure in devoting yourself to the good work of selling to them in order to meet their pressing needs. In this, you will not be unfruitful (Titus 3:14).