We’re All Sales People, Whether You Like It or Not. Yes, Even You.
When I first started out in my sales career, more years ago than I care to remember, I wouldn’t under any circumstance call myself a ‘sales person’. I’d just finished university, with a degree in Arts tucked under one arm and a post graduate in business under the other.
In my mind I was smart, hard-working and destined for greatness. Ready to climb to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, no matter how far they were from the bottom rung I was about to occupy. I knew nothing about business of course, but neither did Branson when he started out, was how I rationalised it.
Before writing this article, I searched high and low through dusty cupboards and desk drawers to track down some of my old business cards and here’s what I found, in no particular order…. Client Executive, Head of Business Partner Management, Account Manager, Channel Manager – and most recently CEO.
You see, I told you, I’m not a sales person. Despite the fact that in every role I have ever undertaken I carried a sales quota, provided forecast updates, closed deals, lost deals, sweated on deals and generally fulfilled all the responsibilities of a sales person… I never once held a business card which identified me as a sales person.
The reason I didn’t want to be known as a sales person in my early days, was because of the stigma and negative stereotypes we all associate with sales people. I refuse to list those stereotypes here because I don’t want to perpetuate them any further. Suffice to say over the past 20 years, I learned to not just accept, but embrace the fact that above all else, sales are the life-blood of every business. Without it the whole show grinds to a halt.
I came to that realisation around the same time I realised that we’re actually all in sales, in one form or another. Daniel Pink, in his fascinating book “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others” explores this concept further. As Pink explains “Whether we’re employees pitching colleagues on a new idea, entrepreneurs enticing funders to invest, or parents and teachers cajoling children to study, we spend our days trying to move others. Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.”
By broadening the frame of reference of what constitutes selling, we begin to see just how frequently in our daily lives we attempt to influence, persuade or cajole others to support us or to follow our lead and just how critical this skill can actually be.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand all the negative perceptions, doubt and confusion so often applied to world of selling. I’ve seen first-hand many Small Business owners, with great products or services and incredible work ethics failing in business or just seeking out an existence, through their inability to sell. Many of these people are frightened, confused or embarrassed to be seen as overtly selling. They feel it cheapens them or devalues their product or service, which they feel should somehow just sell itself.
So they prevaricate, make excuses, throw money they can’t afford at marketing initiatives which are doomed to failure and then wonder what happened to their business?
I’m incredibly lucky in my role to work with lots of young sales people, many of whom have recently embarked on long and hopefully successful careers. It’s imperative for me that they see their career choice as a positive one, one which will have a worthwhile and lasting impact on the customers they engage with, the employees who rely on them to keep the cash registers ringing and the community at large. I encourage them to embrace their sales career path as one of opportunity, creativity and a job which they can be justifiably proud of.
My name is Cian, I’m a husband, a father, a business owner…oh yeah and a proud Sales Person!
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