Top the 7 myths about the sales profession
Top the 7 myths about the sales profession Selling is the most complicated profession in the world. Many people believe they know what the profession entails…many myths have continued throughout time due to these misperceptions, despite the sales and marketing statistics that show otherwise. Here are some of my favorite myths about selling. Myth 1: Marketing and Selling are the Same Thing! One of my professors I had while taking my Master’s Degree once told me that you can only do one of three things in business: make it, sell it, or count it. The problem is the definition of “selling it” comprises two divergent but inextricably entwined functions — sales and marketing. The more appropriate elements (especially in today’s world) should be, in business you can only: make it, grow it, or count it. I say grow it, for two reasons. One reason is the marketing department and the other reason is the sales department. The problem with the two professions is each of believe that their occupation is the dominant half of the pair. Marketers generally think of salespeople as golf-playing monkeys or pushy placement professionals whose sole purpose is to repeat the same sales pitch (that they have developed) over-and-over again to new prospects. Salespeople generally think of marketers as lazy liberal arts graduates who use the words “focus groups” and “corporate brand” to describe activities that is nothing but “a colossal waste of money.” Ultimately each function needs the other if the company is to GROW. To that end, sales and marketing are separate but equal professions from a business perspective. What’s less obvious is how we should all work together. Marketers believe that marketing should play the dominant role. After all, marketing defines the product, articulates the positioning, and creates all the sales tools (ranging from glowing CEO profiles in “Fortune” magazine to the ubiquitous corporate logo wear that serves as the de facto currency of the modern professional). All salespeople have to do is to follow orders, right? Salespeople believe that selling should play the dominant role. After all, selling is where the rubber meets the road, where the tough get going, where everyone gives 110 percent, and where slogans reign supreme. Salespeople bring home the bacon. All marketers do is provide brochures and take all the credit. The truth is more complicated but more rewarding. Suffice it to say, let’s just say that selling and marketing are NOT the same thing. What both departments SHOULD agree on is the need to stay focused on what the client’s and customers want, in an effort to provide them value. Can’t we just stay focused on that? That’s another book too. Myth 2: Selling is about Winning Over Your Customer! Selling isn’t about winning over anyone. It’s about helping your customer win. If you think of making a sale as “winning”, that means someone has to lose. If you are winning and your customer’s are losing, you’ll be selling a very, very short amount of time. It’s about both you and your customer winning. Enough said. I just wish that prospects and buyers thought that all the time too! Myth 3: Selling isn’t a Real Profession! If you’re embarrassed about being in selling, this is the myth you’re subscribing to. You have to be proud of being in selling in order to be successful. One way to do this is to realize the important people you’ll be working with on a daily basis. When sales professionals sell, they are often sitting across the table from the following formalized professions: Chief Financial Officer (formalized by the American Finance Association) Legal Counsel (formalized American Bar Association) Project Manager (formalized by the Project Management Institute) Marketing Professional (formalized by the American Marketing Association) Information Technology Professional (formalized by numerous associations and organizations) Procurement Professional (formalized by the Institute of Supply Management and the National Association of Purchasing Management) The question is, what exactly is a “formal” profession? Myth 4: Selling isn’t That Hard! Anyone Can Do It! Selling is a hard profession to master. It’s one of the most complicated professions in the world. Where else do you have to understand organizations and individuals with such depth and clarity? Where else do you have to build rapport with so many different types of people, in so many different locations, buildings, or business types? On top of this complexity is the reality that Selling is one of the few real pay-for-performance professions, with over of the compensation “at risk” or based on commission. A lot of sales professionals feel stress in their jobs. In the engineering profession, stress results from the application of a constant force to an immovable object. In selling, the force is your “quota” and the immovable object is your customer’s expectations. If you guess, you stress. It’s that simple. Selling is about taking the guess work out of what the future will hold. True, it isn’t as much as it sounds for real sales professionals. The key is to learn about the truth of the sales profession and banish the myths. When you accomplish this, you will find selling concepts that make sense that can immediately put into practice. Above all else, you will persevere when so many others will quit, and that’s what will make the difference to your company’s bottom line. Myth 5: Selling is a “Numbers Game”! Undoubtedly, you will hear this one within your first week of selling: “Selling is a numbers game.” Make the calls, make the presentations, and work your way through enough people, and eventually you will make a sale. You’ll hear it within three hours of being on your first job in Sales. Someone will say “it’s a number game” I guarantee it. It goes something like this. The more phone calls you make, the more sales you will make. “So, make 100 phone calls” someone will say. “Of those 100, send 10 proposals. And of those 10, you will close 2. The more numbers you have the more you will sell. Now, there’s your phone. Good luck!” Remember this always! Quality supersedes quantity. Your goal in selling must be to find prospects that have a propensity and a motive to buy your product or services. If they don’t want to buy or need to buy your product or service, then I don’t care about the numbers! I would rather make two phone calls and close two sales than make 100 like our example above, wouldn’t you? If someone is tracking your progress, how do they know you are calling the right people, with a want and a need? I know of a large insurance sales organization, which provided sales reps with contact lists for life insurance and investments. The only problem was most prospects lived in a low income area and were highly unlikely to buy any life insurance because they didn’t need, or want it. I don’t care if you call 1,000 people that don’t fit the profile. You’re still wasting your time. Quality over quantity. Rather than buying into the myth that selling is a numbers game, think of a game of darts. By aiming your effort (the dart) at a clearly defined target (your pre-qualified prospect on the dart board) your chances for hitting the mark (a sale) are greatly enhanced. Contrast that mindset with a pure numbers game, where you stand outside and try to get hit by lighting or crossing your fingers multiple times with the hope of attaining good luck. Myth 6: You Must Like Rejection! Many sales courses, sales books, and sales training will tell you to keep a very stiff upper lip when you get “rejected.” A rejection can occur when you are rebuffed on the phone, not granted an appointment, or simply told “no.” These courses will also tell you not to let a “no” get you down. The problem with this approach is the fact that once you accept the simple proposition that you have been rejected in the first place, you have given up the psychological high ground and put your self-esteem into retreat! Simply put, your sales team needs to reject the notion of rejection. Once salespeople understand that all they are doing is helping people, every outcome should be the same. If prospects don’t want your help or choose not to deal with your company for whatever reason, it is not your salesperson’s problem. He or she simply has to locate another prospect that needs your company’s products or services. Regardless of the response prospects give, the salesperson is still the same person with the same amount of product knowledge, experience, and competence. When you teach your team to stop actually linking their activity to a prospect’s response (no matter how subtly), selling ceases to be hard work and instead becomes a game. In general, the healthiest mindset for you to teach is: “You, Mr./Ms. Prospect, have made a decision to move forward without my services. I’ll be here when you come to your senses and change your mind. It’s not my responsibility to straighten you or your company out.” Myth 7: Selling is a Dead End Job! Did you know that 85 percent of the company leaders and entrepreneurs in America today were once salespeople? They carried sample cases, made cold calls, dialed for dollars, did product demonstrations and handled objections. Today, they’re the majority of corporate presidents, CEOs and the like. Selling is a dead-end job all right–especially when you consider that the end may be at the very top of an organization!