Sales Intelligence & Automation Blog

We Were Wrong- Everyone is NOT in Sales

19 September 2017 Amy Green Sales Prospecting, Sales Strategy

We’ve all heard the saying that “Everyone is in Sales.” It’s the message that everyone in the whatever org or company we work in – from sales to service to fulfillment to administration – should treat every interaction with a customer as a “selling moment.” It’s supposed to be inspirational – and it is for salespeople! Because we think that we salespeople are the most important thing at our company (nothing starts without a sale, right?) I mean we in sales LOVE LOVE LOVE this statement. It’s surpassed “attitude is everything” and is right behind “it’s all about hustle” in the pantheon of sales related axioms. “Everyone is in sales!” Hey, that sounds good to me, a career salesperson. But for non-salespeople, this is a little unsettling.

The Hoffeld Group:

For those who are not professional sales people, the idea that they are now in sales is often unsettling. This is due to the fact that in the past, selling was considered unsavory. When people thought of selling, they frequently conjured up an image of a used car salesman who was manipulative, insincere and focused solely on getting a sale. However, today this stereotype is not only antiquated, it is wrong.

While I commend the author of this statement for addressing the big fat elephant in the room, I have to partially disagree. Not with the fact that most non-salespeople think being identified as a “sales person” is unsettling – I agree 100% with that. Why? Because I live on the planet Earth and work as a B2B salesperson, so I know what most people think of my chosen profession.

Quick aside – think of a movie, tv show, book or any type of multi-media entertainment offering in the last 100 years, where the protagonist/good guy was a “B2B salesperson”……waiting…..still waiting….Bueller? Get my point? I would argue that every salesperson character in popular culture is portrayed as a “bad guy” or a “heavy.” At the very least, salespeople are portrayed as slick, greedy, untrustworthy characters. In the dystopian movie The Postman, the super evil bad guy is a copier salesperson!

Will Patton’s General Bethlehem…is by turns both frightening and vicious, but there is always the hint of a pathetic Richard III type – a photocopier salesman who became a tyrant when the opportunity arose. And that’s where I disagree with the author – with their thought that this “negative feeling” is a product of the olden-days thinking, and is no longer the way non-salespeople think of salespeople. I think that’s lots of wishful thinking.

So how did this happen? Well, I’m sure we all have a story of the car salesperson or the real estate agent or the personal insurance salesperson that we like to tell at parties – you know the one…where the salesperson was the absolute WORST. But, as B2B salespeople, I don’t think we can blame BAD used car salespeople or personal insurance salespeople for how B2B buyers think of us. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we B2B salespeople, as a group, we didn’t get this negative reputation by being overly concerned with the needs of our clients. We didn’t get this reputation by being trusted advisers who are interested in solving problems. This happened because of our customer’s perception is that we are just “in it” for the money.

And we need to own that.

Why? Well let’s say you don’t agree with me that sales commissions plans have created a culture where “how much am I going to make on this deal” is the first question a salesperson asks themselves…I’ve already made it clear where I stand there.

Let’s look at it from another angle:

Look at what we salespeople read and watch. When every B2B sales book or sales course or sales post on LinkedIn starts with “Three things you can do to you maximize your commission!” or “Five steps to close more deals!” or “How to land the client of your dreams!” its doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out how our clients got to that way of thinking about us. I say this all the time – if you want to know what someone really BELIEVES don’t listen to what they tell you…look at what they SPEND THEIR MONEY on.

Pop Quiz:

 When’s the last time you took/bought sales training or read/bought a “sales book” that concentrated on solving your “clients problems” and not solving your “sales pipeline problems?” Exactly…me too!

So what I am trying to say?

Just this – our customer’s experiences with us (B2B salespeople) have created and re-enforced a negative perception regarding salespeople that contributes to a visceral feeling of ambivalence or outright distaste toward what we do for a living. This feeling has empowered buyer behaviors that embrace an anti-sales process where salespeople aren’t a required part of their process (or at the very least “less important to the process”) of purchasing business products and services.

In English?

People feel icky when dealing with salespeople so they figure out ways to buy stuff without dealing with salespeople.

Customer experience drives behaviors. Think of it in your personal life – you have a bad customer experience at the hair salon or the Pho Garden or the oil change place…do you run back there, fistfuls of your hard earned money in hand, begging them to take your dollars in exchange for their products or services? Think about the issues with sales prospecting, CRMs implementations, sales training, sales Pipelines and sales Forecasts – topics that probably make us 98.2% of all “sales-related” content on the interwebs…how are those affected by customer experience?

Cold Outreach Prospecting isn’t failing because the phone doesn’t work, or email apps don’t work – they’re more amazing than ever! (I just got off a ZOOM! prospecting call with a customer in New Zealand – and I’m 17 hours in the past, sitting in a polo shirt and a bathing suit in Seattle WA – you can’t blame the tech) It’s failing because no one answers our prospecting phone calls or emails. (90% of Decision Makers Never Answer A Cold Call)

CRMs implementations aren’t failing because the software is bad – the code is better than ever! They fail because we fill them these databases with junk activities that aren’t really “real activities” so no one values the data inside of them. (the average U.S. company believes 25% of their data is inaccurate)

Sales Training isn’t failing because there’s not enough of it – there’s more now than EVER! The training is failing because when we get out into the field to try and talk to prospects we find our customers DON’T act or talk like the customers in the training. (most sales training treats customers as rational decision makers who use logic and reason exclusively…WRONG!)

Sales pipeline and forecasts aren’t failing because we don’t know how to measure where a deal is in our sales process…they’re failing because “sales process stages” like PROSPECTING, PROPOSING, DEMOING don’t compute to buyers anymore – so measuring them or tracking them doesn’t help create accurate pipeline reporting. (Buyers don’t want to be prospected, or demoed, or closed.)

IMHO, all of this starts with the experience customers have with salespeople and our sales processes.

So…..we have to change.

That’s why I believe Everyone is NOT in sales….everyone is in….CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Or for a more palatable title for Sales Leaders: Customer Experience is Sales 3.0

And everyone in your company is responsible for Customer Experience, Salespeople most of all.  As a modern Sales Professional, I believe Customer Experience is probably the most important part of my job – and I’m not asking you to take my word for it… I’m willing to prove it.

86% of buyers will pay more for a product or a service that gives them a better customer experience- Pay more. For the same widget.

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