Just the other day, I ran into someone I haven’t seen in a very long time; we served on a school board together years ago. As we did the typical “what are you up to?” chit chat… she said, “Are you…uh… still in sales?”
At first, she impressed me by remembering that I have spent the last 20 years not only “in sales” but as a champion for everyone in sales.
And then I noticed her face and tone. Her face was kind of crinkling up and she almost whispered, “in sales…”
I wasn’t sure what to make of it… was she afraid to say the word out loud? Was she nervous someone near us would see her associating with someone “in sales?”
It broke my heart a little.
Why, oh why, do so many people still think of selling so negatively?
There is no evidence, I know of, to support the widespread stereotypes and negative connotations associated with the profession or for those who have businesses where they need to sell what they offer to win clients. Sure, there are the “stories” and I’ve had my fair share of bad sales experiences.
But, I can counter those experiences with the thousands of sales professionals – from rookies to tenured and solopreneurs to Fortune 100 teams – I’ve worked with. Nearly every one of them are ethical and caring people who are charged with “bringing in business” for their company.
After all, if a business doesn’t have customers or clients buying what they offer…it’s not a business for very long, is it?
I decided to look further into this phenomenon of fear or embarrassment for being “in sales” which I had hoped was going away so I scrolled through the LinkedIn profiles of professionals in my network. I saw titles such as Account Executive, Business Development, Client Success Manager, Client Strategist, SDR, and BDR. There are many titles used to give a name to one of the most important roles in any business… Sales.
I also noticed one very creative business owner who is capitalizing on this fear or apprehension for salespeople. Through hourly radio advertising, he touts “no salespeople” ever in his stores. It’s DIY where you can shop, compare, and purchase without having the dreaded salesperson pressure you.
This shows how much work we still have to do to change those misperceptions and remove the stereotypes of the loud, brash, aggressive, and self-serving sales professional.
While a positive connotation with selling will build confidence for those in sales, there are so many additional benefits for the buyers:
- Getting real time answers instead of searching online
- Having someone else provide insights and best practices
- Time savings
- Possibly a better solution (product or service)
Small business owners with technical expertise (that’s you financial advisors, CPAs, lawyers, engineers) or products that are valuable to the consumer seem to have an especially hard time being comfortable and skillful with the sales part of their responsibilities.
In fact, I see many of them pour more money than they should into marketing and other efforts just so they don’t have to sell. The problem with that approach is this: At some point, conversations with potential buyers do occur and in fact, may be needed to help buyers make confidence buying decisions; and they aren’t prepared for a collaborative conversation that will secure the “yes, we’ll work with you” decision.
It’s time to change these perceptions.
While I am fortunate to be a part of a group of sales authors, trainers, and consultants who are making a positive impact on sales every day, we need more people on the bandwagon.
Will you help me? Let’s jump into a movement to make selling a desirable profession (or role within our profession) we should be proud of.
Let’s get more conversations started without fist pumping, bragging, or self-serving antics; and instead, educate the world and raise up role models who exemplify all the good that comes with being “in sales”.
I can’t do this alone, my company can’t do it alone, my community of Women Sales Pros can’t do it alone…we need YOU!!
Let’ start with this: What do you think needs to be done to change the perception of sales? What would make you proudly greet someone you haven’t seen in a long time and confidently let them know you are “in sales”?
I can’t wait to see your ideas…and action.
My vision? In the near future, when I see someone who asks me if I’m still “in sales”, I can not only say “yes”, I can add, “Isn’t everyone that’s relevant and valuable?”
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When sales means using people, it’s sleazy. When it means helping people, it’s beautiful. Some people, and unfortunately that includes some Herb Tarleks, don’t know about the second type.
Great article, Nancy. We can change the paradigm one company at a time.
It starts with our mission…to serve customers before any expectation of rewards. If we put “mission” ahead of “commission” everyone wins. I like to emphasize the circuitous route to success…not a dash for the cash.
Like the old Smith Barney commercial, we need to make money the old fashioned way, earn it!