Updated: Nov 24, 2020
You may have thought that sales is about “selling," you know, that old concept of "closing," the transaction that officially converts a prospect into a client. But if you took a moment to question that idea, you might realize what others in the profession are coming to understand: sales, for the most part, is not—at all—about selling. "Closing" is, actually, more incidental to what more aptly sums up the profession. If you work in sales, you probably appreciate this reality: rarely is sales the reliable and orchestrated outcome of the work of professionals who are duly prepared to sell.
Whatever the reasons, some time ago, sales settled into complacency as a “numbers game,” and has since atrophied. Reports published by Salesforce, Hubspot, and several other respected resources for sales insights reveal a profession occupied by individuals who are indifferent to their work, unprepared to sell, and unaware of the requirements for sales success in today’s world.
Most sales representatives simply, and begrudgingly, go through the motions of routine activity with little or no thought. The unfortunate fact of this matter is that those incidental closers—those who find prospecting to be a challenge—represent the average sales professional. Their difficulties are well-documented in numerous state-of-the-profession report sand reflect a profession gone awry.
The Challenge to Sell
Advancements in technology, support tools, and a plethora of readily available knowledge have not solved the problems of sales. Year after year, published sales statistics reflect the ongoing disconnection between what is required in order to sell and the performance of typical sales professionals—reps and managers. Sales, it's clear, is not about selling; sales is about the discovery of how to sell. The reliable generation of revenue and improved profit is evidence of a successful discovery about how to sell, or how to improve selling.
Think about it. Sales reps and managers are forever chasing improvement. Why is improvement so elusive, so transient? Sales managers push for increased activity from sales reps as a substituted from the pursuit, acquisition, and application of new knowledge about and essential to sales. Sales managers hope that a higher degree of activity will make the "numbers game" pay off. No learning, nor change, required. And there is no sign that improvement will ever arise from this approach. The profession remains in an alarming condition, with frustrated representatives, managers, and business owners.
By and large, the sales profession has been content with obsolete practices and insufficient knowledge, canned sales support, antiquated trainers with repackaged solutions. The time for an overhaul of sales is long overdue. If you haven’t seen the statistics on challenges in the sales profession—challenges that reveal a state of urgency for sales—, consult research data published by any of the top sales support resources (details are readily available online). These research findings suggest that the sales profession needs renovation.
The ongoing difficulties in the sales profession translate to lost profit for the businesses that depend on a sales operation. The urgent need for renovation in sales—its methods, notions, and standards—is undeniable. Our expectations of sales professionals must change. The profession is in dire need of more competent leaders who understand and can connect sales performance with the requirements to prevail over their challenges.
Solution: The New Sales 101
Given the persistent challenges in sales, any solution must involve an update of essential sales knowledge and related issues. Based on that knowledge (knowledge that can connect sales work with solutions to its challenges), Sales 101 should include these foundational ideas:
1. Sales is not about selling. The purpose of a sales operation is to discover how to sell a specific company’s product and/or service within the various conditions the company faces. Reliable sales are evidence of a successful discovery. Once discovery is achieved, the focus of sales transitions to profit optimization, which considers efficiency refinements.
2. Sales is not a “numbers game”; sales is a creative profession centered on conversion—the process and strategies that reliably convert potential for sales into actual sales.
3. Conversion is achieved through tested strategies that consistently facilitate the attainment of an objective in a step of a company-specific sales process. Therefore, a typical sales operation will have a strategy for prospecting, outreach efforts, engagement, the development of sale opportunities, etc.
4. Sales professionals no longer regard generic, prepackaged sales support solutions. Sales professionals recognize and respect the uniqueness of each prospective client and sales pursuit. Therefore, sales training is based on “state-specific” factors: all of the relevant points that make a company unique. Individuals are regarded as such, not as cogs of an operation.
5. Basic knowledge about sales recognizes the profession's cornerstones—Structure, Process, Strategy, Management—and its two distinct aspects: operational and executional. Sales operations are designed to account for these foundational aspects of basic sales knowledge.
If you are interested in sales or sales improvement, step one is to self-assess. Consider what you know about sales and your assumptions. Identify how the steps and strategies work in your sales process to advance opportunities. Consider where updates in your knowledge could improve results from sales activity and management of sales work. In order to sustain progress towards your goal, accomplishment, not busyness, is required, so think of productivity in terms of results, not activity. Finally, disregard generic sales advice. Now, more than any previous time, sales support should be specific to the factors that make you unique.
Copyright © 2020 Steven Robert Young. All rights reserved.