Sales is a Dirty Word in Business…Why?
“What do you do for a living?” This is most definitely in the top one of the most common questions you’ll encounter at a networking event or any social gathering.
The answer to that question typically draws an approving nod of the head, perhaps even a self-induced widening of the eyes to create the illusion the person you’re talking to is vaguely interested. If you’re really interesting (i.e. Chief Happiness Officer interesting), a “wow!” may whisper its way out of the listener’s mouth – not so secretly wishing you’d hurry up so they can unleash their 3-minute long doozy of an elevator pitch on you.
Acceptable responses to the question “What do you do?” include “I’m an accountant, I’m a lawyer, perhaps even I’m an Environmental Consultant”.
However, dare to declare “I’m in sales” and expect whoever’s listening to immediately leak a facial expression of such disgust, such disdain, that you’d be more accepted into the fold if you’d told them you’d secretly been filling the kettle with toilet-water for the past 15 years.
Why is Sales so Poorly Regarded?
Because, having been brought into disrepute by numerous unethical business practices across a range of business sectors – e.g. Banking (have you ever had PPI?), ever tried buying double-glazing? – is an all too oft-maligned or plain misunderstood profession; however, unlike the Financial Conduct Authority, Law Society or the ICAEW, there’s no professional body governing the conduct of salespeople.
Ponder this a moment:
“Nothing happens in this world until somebody sells something. Nothing” Peter Drucker
How Important is Sales to Business Success?
It’s vitally important because that overpriced coffee you’re drinking out of that socially on-trend, bamboo cup; that car you’re spending ¾ of your Discretionary Income on just to get to work every day; that smartphone you’re holding right now to read this on, well some poor child slaved for hours and hours to make that just for you. Somebody sold that.
Also, the raw materials used to build that smartphone, somebody sold that too.
As a result of all this selling having taken place, those sales generated a profit (hopefully); if enough smartphones have been sold, those sales might generate enough profit to employ others to build yet more smartphones – and then you have mass job creation and, ultimately, a vibrant labour market. In addition, if you have a really productive labour market, well then perhaps we wouldn’t be languishing 2nd (from bottom) in the Group of 7.
Yep, you read that correctly, the UK is languishing 2nd from the bottom in the G& for Productivity. The countries above the UK – US, Canada, France, Italy and Germany – they all have a positive attitude to Sales as a Profession.
“At a US Networking Event I attended long ago, I told a group of Lawyers, Accountants and IT Executives that I was in Sales; they welcomed me into their group. That’s the difference!”
So, given that the Sales profession is pretty darned important to keep us all in jobs, why do so many people have such a low opinion of it? Fear of the Unknown? Afraid of rejection? Jealous of their earnings perhaps?
“a friend of mine took home £125,000 one month, take that the Lawyers!”
So, as a Business Owner, What’s Stopping You from Selling?
Don’t want to get your hands dirty? It’s completely irrational, because if you don’t get your business selling, who else is going to do it? You might find your business won’t be around for too much longer if you don’t start selling. Period.
I bet you’ve been to at least one pointless (until it’s mandatory) training course – First Aid, IT Skills, Strategy away-days and the like and then forgotten what you learned within a few days BUT, have you ever had any formal sales training? If you have, was it within the last 5 years?
So What Does It Take To Succeed in Sales?
Myths abound about what makes a great salesperson – high energy, passion, the ability to swing from chandeliers (I never tried that), an MBA perhaps?
Nope. (though they’re all undoubtedly helpful).
It takes a careful combination of the following:
Empathy – the ability to feel what others are feeling
Focus on the client’s needs
A listening ear (you have 2 ears but only 1 mouth) amongst a few other talents to sell whatever it is your business sells.
Courage – the willingness to take a bit of intellectual risk
“we all have 2 ears and only 1 mouth, use accordingly”
Most people – especially small businesses with smaller budgets – need some sort of support to help them on their way to successful sales and the process of winning new customers. And, like all professions, it’s not a one-time event, sales skills-development is definitely a journey; it’s evolution, not revolution.
Trouble is, good sales training can be difficult to source, time-consuming to attend and expensive, often too expensive, for small businesses to contemplate buying-in on a daily rate.
That’s why I’m really excited about my new service which will launch soon – Affordable Sales Coaching for Small Businesses and Not for Profits. More on that soon.
Questions, Comments, Want to Learn More?