One Necessary Step on the Road to Recovery

I think it must be because we’re British and, apparently, so very reserved.  It can’t be because of any lack of intelligence on the business front itself but I find myself asking why, oh why does society treat sales-people like something unpleasant that sticks to the sole of the collective shoe?  If, socially, you find yourself next to sales-people, the strong odds are that they will describe themselves as “Account Executives” “Client Relationship Managers” or, in fact, every job title under the sun but ‘Sales-person.’

I need to be very clear that I’m talking about sales, not marketing.  When asked about the difference between sales and marketing, as these two vital but quite distinct roles are often rolled up into one department, a friend of mine (and a salesman to the very core of his being) simply answered “Sales is what happens!”

I think it was Richard Denney who cogently observed that (a) nothing ever happens until a sale takes place and, axiomatically, (b) salespeople generate the revenue that everyone else lives off.  Given these blindingly obvious observations, why does such a negative stigma surround a career in sales?  Fancy titles are all very well and indeed sales-people themselves correctly observe that building a relationship with customers is vital but, at the end of the day, they are there to sell their company’s product and this must be the foundation-stone of any ‘relationship.’

Economic times are hard yet I despair of certain company directors who, amazingly, treat their sales teams and the individuals within those teams with little more than contempt.  Incentives in these businesses are usually wholly negative and, in one case, amounted to blatant defrauding of sales commission from staff.  I’m certain that, in significant numbers of businesses, the beating of sales-people will continue until morale improves!

Hard times are the very times to invest in sales training.  Your sales-force has to be so much better than the competition’s.  Obvious, I would have thought.

Elevating sales to a professional pinnacle must be a necessary cultural step for owner managers of SMEs to take.  Equally, those engaged in the sales profession should be proud enough to admit it.

It isn’t all gloom and doom.  I am seeing a company next week that has just started to export yet is openly admitting that, in the context of this expansion “We don’t know what we don’t know.”  How encouraging – a business prepared to look outside the box and bright enough to ask for help in getting it right.  This set me wondering how many SME Managing Director/Owners haven’t reviewed their marketing strategy in years nor spent any time checking the sales effort for congruence with it, nor even resourcing the sales effort adequately enough to deliver?

The banks will be criticised for not supporting business.  It is not their job to cover losses.  They are providers of working capital and if they see inadequacy in the sales team charged with delivering a business’s revenues, it will make them more inclined to decline a request for assistance.  Of course, in the eyes of the business’s owner/directors, such negative lending decisions will all be the fault of the banks which “clearly don’t understand my business and ignore their responsibilities to the wider economy.”  Oh dear…

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