Thinking back to the fifth grade, I wonder how many of you dreamed of becoming a salesperson when you grew up? How many people do you think asked for sales training for Christmas this year? How many kids dressed up salespeople during Halloween? The unfortunate fact is that no one wants to be a salesperson.
The facts say that “sales” is the largest profession in the United States. There are more salespeople than any other single profession. It also ranks consistently in the top 10 for highest paid professions. It seems like more people should want to be in sales, but here is one more fact for you: salespeople consistently rank in the top 5 for the most hated professions – luckily politicians and lawyers usually beat us out on that one.
Those facts make sales one of the most interesting professions on the planet. You need salespeople in your life and in your business, but you don’t want salespeople in your life or business.
Let’s talk about life in general first. When you are buying something, you generally don’t want to talk to a salesperson because you are afraid they are going to be pushy, waste your time, lie or trick you into something you don’t want. For example, you desperately need a new pair of jeans. So, you walk into your favorite store and the salesperson comes up to you and says, “can I help you?” and you say… “nope, just looking.” What just happened there?
Our distrust of the salesperson causes us to put up our defenses and straight-up lie to the salesperson. The salesperson gets bad information, and now they have to finagle their way into the truth or leave you with poor service. The cycle perpetuates itself, you think salespeople are pushy or unhelpful, the salesperson thinks buyers are liars. The whole world hates the selling process even if they are a salesperson.
Now, let’s talk about your business. We’ve already established that the majority of us hate anything that has to do with the sales process, but in business we’re always looking to increase revenue. We want to grow, serve our customers better, and do proactive things to make sure we stay in business. Since we avoid “sales”, we look for things like marketing, advertising, the internet, and social media to drive more business our way without getting into the messy business of selling. We all hope and sometimes even pray, that the phone will just ring or the website will be found and people will buy without us having to actually sell.
Our fear of selling or being stereotyped as a salesperson causes us to spend thousands, if not millions of dollars, on alternatives. It also causes other unseen issues. Since we don’t understand the sales process, we can’t hire good salespeople. And because we don’t know what good salespeople look and sound like when we do hire someone, they don’t sell anything and we begin to distrust our own salespeople, even more, perpetuating the cycle.
So what can we do about it? First, we have to overcome the stigma of selling. We have to see sales as a valuable and noble profession. My grandfather used to say, “no one in any company, at any time, ever made any money until someone sold something.” And, he told us that sales were the most important role in any organization. Could that be true? Do you believe it?
Here’s another fun fact for you. Did you know that salespeople who use “sales” as their role on their business card actually sell 10% more than account managers, client service representatives and all the other made-up titles used to avoid the word sales? It seems the stigma of sales, not only affects how other people view us, but how we view ourselves and how we perform.
I know it is a hard sell for me to convince you to become a polyester plaid-suit wearing, briefcase-carrying, business card-slinging salesperson. So, here is my solution, don’t be one. We can be professional salespeople. We can be professional communicators, who listen to the customer, identify their needs and challenges, and help them solve their problems within their budget and their own decision-making process.
We have a Sandler Rule for this. It is #35, “If your competition does it, stop doing it right away. Do something else.” The same goes for traditional salespeople. If everyone else is being pushy and fast-talking, let’s be conversational, patient and great listeners. Sandler Rule #26 is, “People don’t buy because of the hard sell, they buy in spite of it.” Rule #27 is, “You can’t sell anybody anything; they must discover they want it.” What I want you to discover today is that you don’t have to be a typical salesperson, you can be a great one and proud of it.
But how many salespeople do you know who treat their job like a profession? How many study, invest in themselves, have a sales coach and practice their skills? We can break the traditional stereotypes and do something different and better, but first, we have to want to be in sales and be a professional.
I will leave you with one more question. If you were arrested for being a stereotypical salesperson, would there be enough evidence to convict?