I hope everyone now accepts that standards of selling are spiralling downwards alarmingly; the quality of skills being displayed is now worse than I have ever witnessed and companies are investing less and less in their front-line sales teams – and yet are expecting higher levels of achievement.
Have we become over-reliant on technology and sales process? Yes, I think we have. Rather than using all these new tools to complement what we already had, we have forgotten why people actually buy, and we most certainly have forgotten to take into account how our customers and prospects want to buy.
I challenge you to make your way around the sales space today. Read articles; check out adverts; notice what webinars are being promoted. I guarantee that 80% refer to social media activity or “prospect attraction” or lead management etc. Less than 20% offer advice on developing our sales skills – it is almost as if it has become passé to mention such things.
So here is a wake-up call for all front-line sales professionals and the people who manage them. It really doesn’t matter how efficient your lead tracking system is, or how organized your CRM system has compelled you to become, or how much time you spend (invest) cultivating your Twitter/LinkedIn presence – if you cannot sell, you are going to fail sooner rather than later.
Of course the level of skills required will vary, and be dependent on the role, but we can broadly divide the sales space into four categories: Inside sales, external sales, consultative sales and sales management – each require very different skills, although obviously some are “fundamental” and common to all. For example, I cannot imagine anyone succeeding for very long if they lack communication skills, or the ability to present, or they are hopeless at planning or closing. And if they are unable to qualify or negotiate, they are not going to be particularly profit-focused. Then we must consider business development and account management ..
What’s to be done? How are we going to get the people who are clinging desperately to the purse strings to wake up, smell that caffeine orientated aroma, and realize that unless they act soon, they won’t have companies to run.
We face an uphill struggle, because as I have suggested before, investment in human capital is now seen as a cost, not an investment on the company’s balance sheet, with no obvious return. So it is time for sales professionals everywhere to take matters into their own hands and work to a new mantra: “If it is to be, it is up to me”