salespeople don’t lie
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