You can sometimes smell the fear…
We see it with service relationship managers. These are the guys who ensure that organisations deliver what their salespeople have promised. Highly important and usually highly valued by customers. Due to the strength of their relationships and the trust they have earned, they are potentially in an ideal position to spot and explore additional opportunities for their organisation to do more business. However often they dread the whole prospect of having to ‘sell’.
We see it with internal service centres. I had one client – a global bank – who wanted their IT department to find more ways they could add value to the various business functions within the bank that they supported. Of course, this wasn’t selling in the traditional sense however the resistance was palpable. “We didn’t sign up for this” they shrieked!
We see it with engineers and consultants who, because of the very strong relationships they have with clients as a result of the expertise they provide, are in an ideal position to explore additional ways they could potentially add value.
Not to mention the thousands and millions of independent consultants out there who love what they do but break out in hives as the prospect of having to sell themselves and their wares.
So what’s this all about?
Two reasons in my experience:
- They don’t actually understand what selling really involves – they hear the word ‘sell’ and it conjures up images of hard nosed techniques such as ‘prospecting’, 'cold calling' and ‘closing’. They fear it will harm their existing relationships if they try and ‘sell’ something the person they are speaking to doesn’t want. They don’t realise the whole art of selling is to help customers buy things that will actually help and benefit them. That it is actually doing the customer a favour to help them realise they may be able to do something better than the way they currently do it. You could argue it is actually performing a service to enable such improvements and they are remiss as a service provider if they don’t do it. Selling is really nothing more than influencing people to a different way of thinking. We all do this is many different aspects of our lives however we don’t think of it as ‘selling’. Key to doing this well is showing interest, being curious, asking questions, listening, communicating, problem solving, showing how you can help etc. All the staples of any good consultant, HR business partner or service relationship manager.
- Many salespeople are not actually that good at selling and as a result, give the sales profession a bad name. Not so good salespeople push product, they focus too much on on price, they talk 'value' but are not good at creating it and some operate in a way that erodes trust rather than builds it. As a result, many customers don't always believe the salesperson is acting in their best interests, they feel they are being 'sold too' - something no-one likes - and as a result, the shutters come up. We have even seen some organisations come up with alternative names for the role to try and negate this reputation in some way.
Selling should be seen as the life blood of any business. Great salespeople are hugely liked, respected and valued by their customers. It should be a highly regarded vocation, a badge of honour and seen as a role dedicated to helping customers improve their businesses. In our opinion it should be seen as a proper profession - an idea we will be sharing more on in the coming months - and a proud one at that. Like any profession, it should involve researching, learning, practicing and evaluation. Anyone who hopes to aspire to excellence in selling should be prepared to put the effort in - as top performers in any other profession do. Then perhaps we might see a shift in reputation for selling to one that is considered an honourable and sought after way of making a living. We might also see more people - who might not have 'salesperson' officially on their business card - embrace the role with more enthusiasm.