There’s an Oxel tree standing beside an ancient fisherman’s shack on the Swedish island of Gotland. Although the shack is just a single room with no amenities, and the tree is just a tree, there is something about the sight and the energy of the place that compels me.
I can see the tree and the shack that it shelters out the window from our little vacation cottage, from where I am sitting as I write this. It draws my attention, draws me to it.
I can’t quite name what it is that makes the scene so compelling, makes me want to go out there and sit under it, sit in the tiny one-room shack. But it does. The more I gaze at it, the more I want to be out there.
It makes me think about trees in general, about what it is that, over the ages, has drawn humans into relationship with trees. Almost every ancient mythology talks of trees as sacred. In our ancient Norse mythology, the great tree Yggdrasil represents the nature of the universe, connecting the “nine worlds” from above to below.
The image of Yggdrasil, sometimes called “the world tree,” has become popular around the world, and shows up everywhere from decorative household items to mystical representations to tattoos. It’s widespread use attests the compelling nature of trees as symbolism.
As I gaze at my tree and let my mind wander, I can’t help thinking about the lessons that trees have for us as humans and, because sales is my particular passion, salespeople and the organizations they work within.
I can’t help thinking that our profession would be greatly improved if we could be more like trees. Here are five ways that come to mind.
Trees are one of the world’s most under-appreciated yet generous “givers.” They convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, so that humans and other animals can breathe. They convert sunlight into energy which they pass on to microbes and fungus in the soil, as well as to creatures that feed on their fruits and nuts and leaves. They convert nutrients in the soil into usable energy. They shelter wildlife, provide shade, and their wood can be used for thousands of purposes. When their life is over and the use of their wood complete, they decompose into the soil providing nutrients for others.
There are few things in the world as giving as a tree.
In fact, while living, they not only produce oxygen, but they release chemicals into the air that create a calming and soothing effect for humans and other animals.
Perhaps this giving nature of trees is partly what makes them so compelling to us, aside from their pure beauty, which is another type of gift.
This giving nature of trees also causes us to want to take care of them. One of the first acts of care my family provided to our new vacation property was to contact an arborist to come make sure our trees are healthy and supported. Trees don’t ask much, and what they do require of us, we gladly provide.
Have you ever considered what gifts your sales team gives to the world? Are they generating more value for customers on a consistent basis than they take from them?
Are they creating so much beauty and value that customers want to take care of them? Are they giving before they receive? Are they having powerful conversations, bringing energy to the table, creating an environment that is welcoming and compelling?
No tree has ever begged for my attention. They don’t beg, they compel. They make themselves so attractive, so appealing, that we can’t help but engage with them.
So also your salespeople should not be on the phone begging people to do business with them. Instead, how can they make themselves and your value proposition so compelling to customers that customers WANT to come sit in their shade and engage with them?
So far I have focused on how much trees give, but giving is not their only quality. They also have a quality of flexible strength that allows them to stand strong and not yield to pressure.
Salespeople must be flexible to meet the needs of customers, but unyielding in regard to what matters most.
What if trees were more flexible? What if they bent in the breeze like grass, blew over with the smallest storm, yielded space to other plants without a fight? Would they compel us as they do?
Salespeople must be flexible to meet the needs of customers, but unyielding in regard to what matters most. They must be able to stand their ground when it comes to essentials, not give in to price negotiations, nor compromise the nature of the offering. Many fear that standing their ground makes them less attractive to customers, but the reality is that standing firm in what matters makes one more attractive, not less.
Trees know their place in the world, and they remain steadfast in it. They provide a valuable service in a reliable way, and they continue to meet those needs day in and day out regardless of what else changes in the world.
The lesson for sales organizations is to understand clearly the value you provide, and how it serves your customers. Then meet those needs without fail.
It’s easy to get sidetracked from our value, to try to meet the needs of everyone all the time. Unfortunately, such an approach leads to chasing after the wind rather than standing strong in our value. Help your organization to clearly understand and articulate the needs you fulfill, and then meet those needs reliably and consistently.
Until recently, most scientists would have laughed at the idea that trees “communicate” with each other in any meaningful way. But over the past decade, the work of Peter Wohllehben and others has revealed the stunning truth: Trees use multiple pathways of communication to warn each other, share resources, and communicate about the life of the forest.
Trees communicate through networks of underground mycelia, provided through symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungus, and they also communicate through the air using pheromones. Their communication networks can span thousands of acres, and may even expand across continents.
Trees built the original world-wide web.
The most effective sales organizations, likewise, develop communication channels that enable them to work effectively across the organization to best serve the needs of the “forest”–i.e., themselves and their customers.
We don’t (as a general rule) use fungus and pheromones to do this. Instead, we need robust technology and skills that enable us to communicate essential information in a practical and actionable way. We need everyone who is involved in the process to have access to the same information, and for the critical information to be clear and actionable.
While we didn’t have the direct assistance of trees in developing it, I believe that Membrain is precisely the communication tool that sales organizations need in order to ensure that sales processes and approaches are shared effectively, and to ensure that hand-offs among team members are smooth and provide a good experience for the customer, from prospecting to account growth.
I would love to show you how Membrain can help your team become more like a beautiful grove of trees, and less like a tangle of underbrush.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills and processes.