sales­peo­ple don’t lie

The Smart Manager - - Reading Room - By roshan l joseph

The word `pro­fes­sional’ is loosely used to­day. Ev­ery­one claims to be one, lit­tle un­der­stand­ing the obli­ga­tions of such a tag.

A pro­fes­sional is one who has been for­mally trained and guided to un­der­stand the sub­ject of ex­per­tise along with the skills that will make the prac­tice ac­cred­ited. Of­ten there are bod­ies that de­fine and cer­tify the ex­per­tise. The pur­pose is to avoid char­la­tans and quacks cha­rade as gen­uine prac­ti­tion­ers. There is more to be­ing a pro­fes­sional than just this.

A true pro­fes­sional is com­mit­ted not only to the dis­ci­pline and rigour as laid forth by those who cer­tify but also to the guid­ing prin­ci­ples that are not ne­go­tiable. The med­i­cal pro­fes­sion has very clearly laid out the the­ory and prac­tice of medicine which also bound the mem­ber­ship to a set of val­ues called the `Hip­po­cratic Oath’. Sales lack any such regime.

Over 50 years ago, a young and am­bi­tious sales­per­son named Jack Carew found that he had the magic wand that made sales hap­pen. He really could not put a fix on what it was that he did which caused this to hap­pen. In­ter­est­ingly, when he moved to another ter­ri­tory, the per­son re­plac­ing him did not have the same sales re­sults.

He was also up­set with the poor im­age sales­peo­ple had across in­dus­tries. He de­cided to do some­thing about it. Jack re­al­ized that to make a real dif­fer­ence, one needed to un­der­stand the process of a sale be­fore one could start defin­ing sales uni­ver­sals.

Jack de­cided to study the work that his sales team mem­bers did to com­plete their sales. In fact, he put a univer­sity pro­fes­sor to study the sales process used. To their sur­prise, there ap­peared to be no com­mon process, each do­ing what­ever it took to get an or­der. He also noted that sales­peo­ple said any­thing to sup­port their claims. He set about to do his bit to rec­tify this.

He worked to study the con­sumer, and to un­der­stand what the driv­ers are that im­pact a buy­ing de­ci­sion. He ar­gued that once this was clear, making a sale was easy and within the ben­e­fit of what the cus­tomer needs. From this quest was born the sem­i­nal work called the Di­men­sions of Pro­fes­sional Sell­ing (DPS).

Jack ar­gues that sell­ing is a tal­ent ev­ery­one is born with, sim­i­lar to the abil­ity to sing a song. If one were to watch a kindergarten class in progress, when the teacher an­nounces that it is `singing time’, there is a shout of

ap­proval and many lit­tle hands shoot up to be the first to sing. Each of the lit­tle pupils feels ca­pa­ble of singing. Fast for­ward to the same group of kids, now adults, and an­nounce the same mes­sage, `it’s sing-along time’, and watch so many claim they can’t sing. Ed­u­ca­tion pos­si­bly ru­ined the in­nate tal­ent.

Sales too is a skill ev­ery­one uses, some bet­ter than oth­ers. It is hard to iden­tify a sin­gle per­son, in his­tory or alive to­day, that never had to use the skill of sell­ing. A mother of a newly born man­ages ex­tremely well with no ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Spir­i­tual lead­ers are great sales­peo­ple. Politi­cians have to be good at it. No one can duck this.

Un­like the tal­ent to sing which needs coach­ing to sing at a pro­fes­sional level, there are few or no real ef­forts to bring sales un­der a dis­ci­pline. Ev­ery­one tries what they think is the best way to im­prove their sales ca­pa­bil­ity. While this may pass at the in­di­vid­ual level, it is a tick­ing time bomb when a com­pany fails to rec­og­nize the need to pro­fes­sion­al­ize its sales team.

Sales train­ing that em­pha­sizes form over sub­stance does just that.

who teaches whom to sell?

Each pro­fes­sion draws a cer­tain type of per­son. The armed forces keep phys­i­cal fit­ness as a prime re­quire­ment when they recruit. Re­cently, a video went vi­ral where a lit­tle boy, Ma­teo, has an en­gag­ing ne­go­ti­a­tion with his mother who re­fuses to give him cup­cakes for din­ner. Over 3.5 mil­lion watched the video, in­clud­ing the talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

She was so taken in by lit­tle Ma­teo’s abil­ity to push his case that she called him on her show in hopes that he would grow and join her le­gal team. Af­ter all, don’t we need lawyers who are ar­gu­men­ta­tive peo­ple? So, what kind of a per­son makes the best sales­per­son?

`Talkative’ seems to win by a long shot. Which sales­per­son will not gain with the gift of the gab? A good per­son­al­ity is the next pop­u­lar re­quire­ment. Fol­low­ing close, af­ter that, is the abil­ity to be cre­ative. No harm there, if it is fo­cused on new ways to sell. How­ever, the cre­ativ­ity is ex­pected to ex­tend to where truth abides.

So the un­der­stand­ing of sales is based on some hack­neyed un­der­stand­ing of what it takes to sell well. Hav­ing hired such a per­son, com­pa­nies go about try­ing to train them into the sell­ing job, here again, with­out really un­der­stand­ing what to teach. The in­duc­tion pro­gramme is all that is served out to the recruit.

There are many com­pa­nies that be­lieve that a solid in­tro­duc­tion into the tech­ni­cal as­pects of the prod­uct is the only in­jec­tion re­quired to churn out an ex­cel­lent sales­per­son. There are plant vis­its, time spent in the R&D lab­o­ra­tory and any­thing that is nec­es­sary to fill the gaps of prod­uct knowl­edge. This is rightly so.

Com­mer­cial knowl­edge is the other area of in­duc­tion train­ing. This too is a very im­por­tant part of pre­par­ing a sales­per­son for the nit­tygritty of the mar­ket. There is also a manda­tory sec­tion on dis­tri­bu­tion, trade mar­gins, re­turn on in­vest­ment and poli­cies that cover ac­tiv­ity in the field. Re­port­ing from the mar­ket, com­pet­i­tive in­for­ma­tion and, of course, ex­pense re­ports and travel ben­e­fits too con­sti­tute an im­por­tant part of in­duc­tion train­ing.

And how does one sell? This is con­sid­ered al­ready cov­ered in the tech­ni­cal ses­sion. If you know your prod­uct well, where is the need for any sell­ing? The cus­tomer will be thrilled to buy as soon as they hear all the tech­ni­cal ad­van­tages of the prod­uct. It is in­ter­est­ing that even the Ja­panese have lit­tle con­cern for how to sell.

Spir­i­tual lead­ers are great sales­peo­ple. Politi­cians have to be good at it. No one can duck this.

SAGE Re­sponse 2018, 204 pgs, Pa­per­back

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