There used to be a popular misconception that successful sales people are born, not created, which presumably referred to the belief that to be successful in selling one needed to possess the “gift of the gab.” That may have been true in the old days, when the travelling rep believed he could sell “Ice-cream to Eskimos“, but of course this has changed and selling is no longer a dirty word.
Business people in the UK have devalued selling for far too long and some managers have convinced themselves that they would do better if they did not employ salespeople – after all, good products sell themselves – don’t they?
As a consequence, until very recently, salespeople have done everything possible to avoid calling themselves “a salesman or a saleswoman.” They have developed a series of euphemisms such as – “Sales Engineer”, “Account Executive”, “Technical Sales Consultant”, etc. But nowadays we accept that we all sell everyday – doctors, lawyers, estate agents, architects and politicians. The fact remains that anyone who is in business has to sell themselves and their products – and the so called “Captains of Industry” – Branson, Roddick, Marshall, Hanson, Gates, Dell and Co. are thought the best salespeople in the world.
It therefore follows that the quality and success of our salespeople will ultimately determine the success of our companies. Certainly the world has become more competitive and, in order to survive and stay in business, we need to continually expand and develop the skill sets of our sales team.
Sir John Harvey-Jones said “Most companies fail not in their attempts to be innovative or creative. In this country most of them fail because they undervalue the importance of professional selling.”
Unfortunately, the task of selling never becomes any easier and as competition continues to intensify, sales people will face issues that can be extremely difficult to deal with – e.g. decreased product uniqueness, increased competition within ‘safe’ markets, longer sales cycles and shorter product life spans.
Every organization that intends to survive in the re-engineered environment which arrived with the new millennium must, in my view, respond to those realities and recognize that there is not one critical, sales related challenge which must be addressed, but five – and I will discuss these in a follow up article.
Our commercial functions, particularly the sales team, represent our forward line. If they are not scoring regularly, we cannot possibly achieve our overall commercial objectives – i.e. nothing happens until somebody sells something, and all of that investment in costly accounting software, new office equipment, expensive IT systems, etc. will count for nothing.
We can therefore say with complete confidence, that selling really is the key factor in the total marketing process.