When Will Sales People Take Themselves Seriously?

Ok, the title may be intentionally provocative, but honestly, as an employer, I really mean it.

I wrote an article some time ago, about the poor quality of sales candidates, and after hosting the excellent Bob Apollo of Inflexion Point on the Twentisphere Podcast this week, I have to say my opinion has changed little.

It’s all about the client (why is this news?)

Bob made some great points about ham-fisted sales people shoe-horning the client into their sales expectations, rather than listening to (and understanding) the client’s buying cycle. How often have you had someone call you, get you interested, and then ruin their whole pitch, by trying to force you to buy before you were ready?

These days, our company tends to only deal with B2B sales. In the commercial world, anybody procuring our services is going to be robust enough to challenge our assumptions – and go through a reasonable period of due diligence and internal discussion. We have found it absolutely essential, to understand what this buying process is – even if the client initially looks like they are going to move very quickly (they normally don’t.)

Unconscious Incompetence

Many of the sales people I talk to outside of the Company, are still residing in that happy state of unconscious incompetence. Buoyed-up by some lucky successes of yester-year (cf Glengarry Glen Ross), they bump along from one job to another, occasionally successful – and always believing their own hype.

Conscious Incompetence

The candidates I want to talk to, have reached that unhappy place of realisation that they could be better. I was really excited to hear Bob speak highly of the Association of Professional Sales, that seeks to advance professional development and credibility. At last it would seem that there somewhere to go, to learn the craft of sales properly. In my head I can see it as a sort of “Sales Professionals Anonymous”.

You get the idea:

“Hi, I’m Carl – and I’m a Salesman. It’s been three months, since I last closed a deal.”

“Hi Carl.”

Conscious Competence

In my view, the consciously competent sales person will only apply for roles where they genuinely believe they can add value. They will realise their own limitations, seek help in good time – and realise that they are spearheading a team effort, for the initial phase of customer engagement. This sales person will know that, realistically, most achievements are hard-won – and that the only way to make it easier, is to spend time training, evaluating effort – and developing potential. They even have a six-step process 😉

So, will the serious sales people stand up please?


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