Amber Naslund’s rant, 9 Social Media Topics that Need to Die (March 25th), was an exhilarating slap to the head. Even though I could be among the guilty, I’ll pile on with my list of unloved topics for Sales.
What makes a topic scream for a quick death? Ones that are beaten six ways to Sunday. Ones that reinforce negative stereotypes. Ones that don’t enable insight or understanding. Ones that are “safe,” and don’t challenge the status quo. Ones that are a pander for behaviors and tactics that are ethically shaky.
7 Sales Topics that need to die:
1. How to get prospects to [fill in the blank]. Nothing reinforces the ugly manipulative-salesperson stereotype better than promoting manipulative practices. See (“Question them into a corner and close them when they get there.”)
2. “Proving the ROI” as an essential selling tactic. Amber said it best: “. . . quit bastardizing the term ROI and using cryptic, fluffy interpretations of it in order to avoid admitting that you don’t understand it, or to dodge the whole measurement and accountability issue altogether.” Amen. Selling to a business decision maker includes understanding what you’re talking about.
3. Ending “the conflict” between marketing and sales. Decades of rancor-filled debate hasn’t brought us closer to resolution. That’s because the issue isn’t marketing versus sales. It’s about how companies organize internally to deliver value, and how they lead, manage, measure, and provision.
4. How salespeople can become “trusted advisors.” Facilitating trust in a business relationship is fundamental to selling anything. But asking salespeople to become a “Trusted Advisor” to their clients is a setup for failure. I trust my insurance broker. But as long as he’s on the hook to make a quarterly revenue target and earns commission on the services he sells, he will never be my “trusted advisor,” and he doesn’t need to waste effort trying.
5. Best techniques to close deals. When was the last time you were “closed?” Was it fun? According to Jill Konrath, “the very best salespeople don’t employ any special closing techniques at all. They simply focus on understanding their customer’s business and helping them achieve their desired outcomes.”
6. “Immutable laws” of selling. In an unpredictable world, shreds of certainty are attractive—and serve as fodder for those who prey on the gullible. Nothing’s constant. New contexts require questioning everything, and searching for exceptions. The rewards go to those who see things differently and break from convention.
7. Strategies and tactics to beat a bad economy. Although the idea might appeal to our inner warrior, The Economy cannot be vanquished. The economy is a combination of complex forces that present risks and opportunities. Beating-the-economy thinking distorts planning, and makes no more sense than beating the force of demographic change or beating the weather.
7 topics that need to be heard:
1. How the next generation of sales leaders must lead to balance ethics, sales effectiveness, and improving shareholder value
2. Emerging competencies for sales success
3. The impact that social media-enabled sales strategies will have on millions of people and businesses worldwide that do not have access to social media
4. Opening sales career opportunities for economically disadvantaged people
5. The most significant forces that impact sales strategy, and what they mean for process innovation
6. Buyer viewpoints on what makes a salesperson valuable and effective, and what contributes to a positive experience
7. The sales story behind achievements that have created positive social change
OK. Done! There’s a strong flavor of do-goodism because the sales profession could benefit from a makeover. So it’s time to shut up and get to work. I’m going to change the image of the salesperson from paunchy, opportunistic huckster to one that resembles Mother Theresa. I won’t do it single-handedly, and it won’t happen overnight, but choosing good topics seems a reasonable way to begin.