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There are all kinds of ideas about how and why sales is broken.

There are those who believe that sales is broken because salespeople are selfish. This isn’t even close to being true. Salespeople are people, and they are no more or less selfish than any other group. With a few exceptions, salespeople in general haven’t behaved badly, despite the ancient stereotypes, for decades. If anything, they are often too soft.

There are some who believe that sales is broken because the Internet has made it so salespeople are no longer necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Internet is a wonderful tool, like any other, but it isn’t a replacement for human relationships and the value that they can create.

When “sexting” replaces actual sex, I’ll believe that technology has finally replaced human relationships. Until then, all things being equal, relationships win; all things being unequal, relationships still win.

And there are those who believe that selling is broken because buyers are changing the way that they buy. Because buyers have access to information and are educating themselves doesn’t mean that they have the time or the interest in becoming subject matter experts in what they are buying.

It’s true that buyers are evaluating their options on their own, but the fact that they are doing so doesn’t mean they have the situational knowledge or experience to get the results that they need on their own. They still need value-creating salespeople.

Why Sales Is Really Broken

Selling is really broken because of a lack of honesty and integrity. This lack of honesty and integrity isn’t on the part of the salesperson alone; it includes their company, their clients, their competitors all being dishonest together

  1. Your client’s clients want greater results at a lower price. Your client gives their client a lower price.

  2. So, now your client wants greater results from you at a lower price.

  3. Your competitors insist that they can produce greater results at a lower price, and that the only reason that your client isn’t receiving a better outcome for their investment is because they aren’t using the right partner. In a lot of cases, this is dishonest. The reason for poor results is oftentimes that too little is being invested to obtain that result, and investing less is never ever the answer to investing too little.

  4. Your client wants to believe this they can invest less and get a better result because they need to believe that this is true. Your client’s salespeople can’t sell the actual value that they create, and so they sell price. Now, your client is forced to make up their loss in margin by obtaining a lower price on what they buy–from you. Here, your client is being dishonest. Your clients and their clients both know that they aren’t likely to achieve better results by investing less in generating results.

  5. Salespeople struggle to sell the value they create, and even when they can, their clients have trouble agreeing with even the most compelling ROI analysis because they can’t sell the value within their own company; they can’t imagine paying more because they can’t imagine how they could ever charge their clients more.

  6. Repeat. And then we find our way to the bottom.

Unbroken: A Little More Margin Will Go a Long Way

To fix this problem, a few things are necessary.

First, salespeople have got to learn to sell the value that they create. As long as salespeople continue to compete and sell price, this cycle will continue. But that can’t happen by itself.

Second, the companies that employ salespeople are going to have to stop competing on price, especially when that isn’t their competitive strategy. You are better off being a smaller, profitable company than what used to be a large, unprofitable company—before it filed for bankruptcy.

At some point, both salespeople and their dream clients need to be ready for the honest conversation about what is required to produce results worth paying for.

Third, buyers are going to have to stop going along with the lie that better results can be produced at a lower cost. They and their companies are going to have to find ways to help work with salespeople to ensure that enough value is created that everyone can capture enough to do jaw-dropping, breath-taking, earth-shattering work.

A little margin will go a long way towards fixing this problem. You get a little more margin and invest in creating even more value for your client. That value translates to your client’s ability to produce greater results for their clients and so they can keep a little more margin and invest in producing even greater results.

And so we trade what is a vicious circle for a more virtuous circle, and the world becomes a better place.


Why do you believe sales is broken?

Why do businesspeople and salespeople both act as if the premise that more can be obtained at lower and lower prices is true?

How would a general acceptance that price isn’t really the problem improve sales and selling for both salespeople and their clients?

Could you generate greater results for your clients with a slightly greater margin? Could you invest greater margins in a way that helps them generate greater results for their clients–and thereby help them generate greater margins?

Sales 2011
Post by Anthony Iannarino on April 16, 2011

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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