Dispelling Seven Sales Myths

In Sales Trends for This Decade, an article based on his recent CNNfn appearance, HR Chally Group CEO Howard Stevens dispels what he considers to be the seven biggest myths about sales.

On some points I agree with him. Others I believe need further consideration. However, they all deserve discussion.

  • Myth #1 – The best salespeople will make the best managers:   Stevens believes that when a salesperson converts to a sales manager, three things happen:  1) a great salesperson is lost, 2) a mediocre (or worse) manager is gained, and 3) customers suffer. I personally don’t think it’s that cut-and-dry. You may lose a great salesperson, but you are just as likely to gain a great sales team due to the new manager’s impactful leadership—if they’re a top leader.
  • Myth #2 – Every salesperson seeks a career promotion:  Good salespeople seek independence and financial reward. These are, Stevens notes, primary drivers that veer far from the political wrangling and bureaucratic inter-dependence often present in a management position. To me, this is an over-generalization. Not every salesperson seeks a career promotion, and really fantastic salespeople like to stay right where they are due to their earning potential.
  • Myth #3 – Highly-motivated, hardworking individuals can sell anything to anyone: Being a “Jack of all trades” still means being a “master of none.” Only masters produce top-line results. In this case, I am in complete agreement with Stevens. Success in sales requires proven techniques and best practices.
  • Myth #4 – Creating a better mousetrap drives customers to your door:  In disproving this myth, Stevens points to the nearly 85% of new products patented by the United States Patent Office that never succeed in the real world. Again, I agree. These failures are further proof that effective marketing combined with a sophisticated salesperson and sales process will attract customers.
  • Myth #5 – Good training will improve any salesperson’s performance:  According to Stevens, success is based on innate talent, not the level of training or education a salesperson receives. No amount of training can create a marketing genius from someone without the natural talent. In my experience, this is true. In the world of sales, some people just don’t cut it.
  • Myth #6 – The Internet will eventually eliminate the need for salespeople:  E-commerce companies that don’t offer “real people” who can relate to and consult with customers are seven times more likely to fail, according to Stevens. While I agree that the Internet won’t eliminate the need for salespeople, it will force them to change the way they market their products or services.
  • Myth #7 – Top academic grades equal top sales results:  Stevens believes that, because teaching an academic “genius” to sell is such a difficult task, sales talent is inversely related to performance in school. I do agree with him, to a point. An Ivy League education cannot replace a solid track record of results, consistent W-2s, company tenure, sales-related behaviors and job-related characteristics. In other words, while education is certainly important, it is not as important as the total package.

I reached out to some of my customers to get their opinions on Stevens’ thoughts about sales myths. Like me, most agreed with him.

“The points made…about sales myths ring very true from my experience,” said Tom Durocher, COO, J.F. Hubert Enterprises. “Many of these myths are applied across the spectrum of different job positions within an organization and they still hold true. No matter what is said, how it’s said, or who is saying it, nothing replaces good old fashioned talent! Talent is usually developed, not learned.”

Said Brian Kisslak, Vice President of Sales, AccuWeather, Inc.: “Most of the areas are truly just myths [and] not true in the slightest.”

What do you think? Are these myths fact or fiction? Are there any additional myths that need to be dispelled? Share your thoughts!

One thought on “Dispelling Seven Sales Myths”

  1. Agree almost with the entire list expect for myth#5 because there appears to be a mix of training and development all lumped under training. I just debriefed a sales person using an assessment that helped her to gain greater clarity around her talents, to separate her non-talents from her talents and to look to her weaknesses specific to her current role. When roles change (agree that great sales people do not necessarily make the best sales managers), then the talents necessary to be successful within those roles change.

    This myth could be restated Leaders Are Born, Not Made. Everyone has the potential given their talents to be a leader or a sales person. Only thing is that some people have been able to better utilize and leverage their natural talents while others have been hindered by those around them including sales managers.

    In many cases people turn non-talents into weaknesses and truly do not know their innate talents. Awareness is the first step to improving sales performance. This goes back to Gordon’s Learning Ladder or what some now call the Law of Process.

    Add this myth – Change the behavior by focusing on the behavior will change the results – Must look to the beliefs that drive the behaviors creating the results.

    Add this myth – More knowledge will make you a better sales person or Knowledge is Power – Applied knowledge is the source of power. The question is Not do they know it, but rather “Do they Want to Do It!?”

    Good article, thanks

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