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My latest thoughts on sales & marketing

Love Selling / Hate Sales?

Published on December 24, 2019

Clock Illustration on Time to Sell

Tell someone you are in sales, what type of response do you get? It’s typically not overwhelmingly positive. My favorite is, “I could never be in sales.” The thinly veiled compliment is overshadowed by the person’s obvious compartmentalization of you with every car salesmen and telemarketer on the planet. Even in our own profession we try everything we can to not be a sales person. We give ourselves titles like Account Executive and Solution Consultant. Who are we kidding, if you are buying we are selling! They know it and you know it.  

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post which seemed to strike a cord with a lot of people. The core premise of the post is that selling and sales are two fundamentally different things. Selling is focused on people and solving their problems while sales is a formula focused on inputs and spreadsheets. The lion share of the responses came from sales people who share my sentiment that they loved selling and hate sales. There were a few managers and executes who back “sales” as a necessary part of the process. Based on the overwhelming response, it seems to make sense to dive a bit deeper into this concept. Are selling and sales really two different things? More importantly, can you love one and hate the other and still be successful in the profession?

It seems there are fundamentally two sides of the brain at work and many times at odds when it comes to selling vs. sales. In many ways it’s Art vs. Science.

Selling is all about people. It takes an ability to build trust quickly… with a stranger. So much trust that they are willing to share with you details about themselves and their business. Details, that like it or not, you are going to leverage to sell them at some point. You can argue all day about the skill level of people doing this, but that’s actually the point. Often times there is so much time spent on sales, that we don’t teach people how to sell.

The most formative years of my career were spent working for two entrepreneurs who taught me every aspect of their business. My job was to sell, but they focused on how we communicate with executives, how we solve their problems and ultimately how we evaluate each deal from a business standpoint. Not just from the buy side, but from our side. What were the risks and rewards, from BOTH sides. We focused on building sustainable revenue lines from a diversified book of business around one core product. Crazy!

What I learned from them was selling, not sales. I learned to think like a business owner, which lead me to speak like a business owner, which lead to more sales, bigger sales and the right kind of deal for our business. The right kind of deal is a bit of a foreign concept in a sales culture. 

Sales is all about numbers. Numbers drive the business, the process and the culture. Numbers are an absolute in business, they are not going anywhere and are EXTREMELY important. The problem for a numbers first approach in sales is that numbers are black and white. Numbers don’t have context or nuance. It’s a formula. How often have you heard, “what your cookbook?” For those not familiar with the term, it’s basically a sales funnel based on number of dials you need to make to get a meeting, how many meetings to get an opportunity and how many opportunities to close a deal. It’s a formula, as long as the inputs go in, the results will come out on the back end. Works every time… right? 

Go survey the top earning sellers you know, is it a game of inputs and outputs? Or a game of strategic relationship building? Those with the big paystubs aren’t using a formula, those people are focused on relationships. Relationships already formed and those that need to be formed. They build those relationships with the ability to talk to people about their business. Not just how the company makes money, but how they survive day to day. The politics, the reality of their job, their boss and how they can support making them successful.

What tends to happen is the “sales” people move into management because they care about the numbers and process as much as their boss and their bosses boss. This is why you start to find these huge disconnects between the reality of what’s happening in the field vs. what management expects to see. Selling is an art, sales is a science. This is the number #1 problem business face when they look to hire an army of sales people to scale. They focus on the number, not the people.

There is a ton of momentum right now behind sales training and enablement, still the focus is not in the right place. We need to be developing well rounded business skill sets, not simply talk tracks focused on feature and function aligned around a series of questions designed to uncover pain. Let’s teach some real fundamentals, maybe just start with how businesses make money. It’s amazing how fast a conversation develops when you ask someone what they do, they tell you, then you have the ability to articulate their business model is 10-15 seconds. It takes experience, time and coaching. Not what you want to hear when you are focused on the numbers, but the long term stability will outweigh the short term growth.

Sales wants to create visibility and predictability by ensuring everything is in the CRM, the process is followed and the inputs are being made. What they are actually doing is building a predictable model for churn and continuing the negative connotation that surrounds the profession of selling.

Love Selling / Hate Sales?