Uncover the true impact and value of sales professionals in shaping businesses and driving economic growth.
The True Impact of Sales Professionals
I am a pro-salesperson. I believe salespeople do important work. On its face, the transaction that is a signed contract fails to communicate the value salespeople create for their clients, their clients' clients, and the economy. What salespeople do is help companies make the changes that improve their results and provide downstream benefits.
Misunderstood Challenges in Sales
Some well-meaning people suggest that salespeople suck, and it is true that some salespeople have not yet learned to sell effectively. Many are trying their best to figure out this thing called sales, which is a mystery to salespeople early in their career development. It isn’t fair to accuse a salesperson of sucking when it's likely they haven’t been given the training, coaching, and development that others have.
The Misconception of Sales Morality
Others moralize, pretending every salesperson is a self-oriented brute because they make money and chase their version of success. One person's fortune is another person's version of poverty. Most people who are money-oriented lacked resources when they were young, which made them determined to have money. People who are hungry now were likely hungry when they were children.
While some people believe that everyone should practice empathy in business, you don’t often see the loudest moralizers practicing it. Often those who refuse to have empathy don’t bother to wonder what may have happened to money-oriented people that has them turning themselves inside out to earn more and achieve success.
Redefining Salesperson Status
Some people assume that all salespeople need something rather than know something. We refer to know-something salespeople as One-Up, meaning they take seriously their obligation to know what their client doesn't. Most clients don't buy what salespeople very often, so they need help from someone with the knowledge and experience to close the client's knowledge gaps. Those who believe that the salesperson should not lead their clients through the decision-making process lower the salesperson’s status.
These critics suggest the client should lead, despite having little experience with the buyer’s journey. The only problem with this thinking is that none of us knows what we don’t know. A salesperson who has helped dozens or hundreds of companies and their contacts can lead their clients to the better results they need.
You will also find critics offering advice that would not only lower the salesperson’s status but also prevent them from being consultative, let alone a trusted advisor. What value can anyone create when they are forbidden from providing the counsel and advice that would help the client improve their chances of succeeding? How can a client benefit from a salesperson’s experience if they are not allowed to make recommendations that would improve the client’s decision making?
Handling Sales Rep Mistakes with Empathy
Every so often, a salesperson makes a mistake, like sending a clumsy email sent to a person who screencaps the message and posts it online. Even if they remove the salesperson’s name, they expose and embarrass the sales rep. Using something like this as a chance to gain attention on a social site and shame the salesperson who made a mistake reveals a lack of empathy.
A better approach might be to offer advice privately, helping the salesperson do better in the future without bringing attention to yourself.
Addressing Cold Call Criticism and Hypocrisy
A CEO or vice president of a company criticizes a salesperson who called them. Many of them state they don’t take cold calls, but all the while their sales forces are making cold calls to their company’s prospective clients. This is called a performative contradiction, which means the person is doing what they are telling others not to do. You might know this as hypocrisy.
It’s fine if you don’t take a cold call, but there is no reason to chastise salespeople who do on social media. Those who would publish their aversion may confuse their own sales forces about what they should be doing to pursue their clients.
Celebrating the Pro-Salesperson
Many people criticize sales in public, or they choose to believe that salespeople are pushy, self-oriented, and only want to make money. This is far from the truth. If you had 100 salespeople in a room, it’s unlikely that a single salesperson would know how to execute a hard sale, nor would they want to learn that strategy, as to them, it would not be helpful in winning the clients they need.
It isn’t easy to sell. But much of the criticism doesn’t help them to learn what they should do in the future. Instead, they are criticized for doing something that they didn’t know was a mistake.
If you are reading this, when you see a salesperson, politely provide them with a strategy that would help them do better in the future.