Business people, certainly here in the UK – and I have every reason to suspect that it is the same everywhere else – have devalued selling for far too long: In fact some unenlightened managers with a very narrow commercial band-width, have even 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”.
When was the last time you were introduced to a professional salesperson who when you asked what field they were in, said openly, honestly and with pride: “Oh, I sell”
No, rather most salespeople prefer to disguise their true job title behind euphemisms such as: “Sales Engineer,” “Business Development Manager,” “Account Executive,” “Technical Consultant” etc. But nowadays we have to accept that we all sell everyday – doctors, lawyers, estate agents, architects, politicians, teachers, accountants…. The baby crying in the pram is selling to be picked up; the dog tugging at your trouser leg is selling to be taken out for a walk (unless he is someone else’s dog, in which case he is trying to bite you) – but you take my point.
In the commercial arena, 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 to be amongst the best salespeople in the world.
It therefore follows that the quality and success of our salespeople will ultimately determine the success of our business: Certainly the world has become more competitive and in order to survive and prosper we need to continually expand and develop the skill sets of our sales teams.
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 organisation that intends to survive in a continually “re-engineering” environment, must, in my view, respond to those realities.
In summary: 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 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.