Is Sales A Blood Sport?


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I’ve been having an off line discussion on competitiveness and agressiveness in selling.   In the discussion, terms like “sales is a Blood Sport,”  or “sales by it’s nature is Predatory.”  This kind of terminology disturbs me deeply.  Unfortunately, I this is too prevalent.  Just ask people to talk about sales people, most of the words have to do with pushy, only care about themselves, liars, deceitful, and the list goes on.  The reputation of sales people, in the hierarchy of life is just above pond scum.  Perhaps only lawyers hold a lower place in people’s minds.

Sales professionals do nothing to improve the perception of the profession by having conversations between ourselves about sales being a blood sport or predatory.  If we use those words and think of our profession in that manner, surely it is reflected in our attitudes and behaviors, not just to our competition, but to our customers, colleagues, and others in our own organizations.  How can we as sales people talk about entering into “win-win” negotiations with customers, when we “define” ourselves as predators.  By definition, blood sports and predatory selling is win-lose, over the long term, it is lose-lose.  How do we expect customers to trust predators?

Somehow, too many sales people think of sales in macho terms.  We do a lot of posturing, about how tough it is, how we must go into battle.  We talk in terms of the “enemy.”  We use warrior terms in describing sales–the job of a warrior is to kill.  Would we be proud of using these terms in a conversation with a customer?  How many sales people would walk in to a prospect or a customer and state, “I believe sales is a predatory activity,”  or “Sales is a blood sport, don’t you want me fighting for you?”

I think we confuse competitiveness with this macho terminology.  The best sales people I have ever met are fiercely competitive, they don’t like losing.  When they lose, they examine themselves.  They look at what they have done and examine how they could have been outsold.  The consider, how could I have presented a more compelling solution to the customer?  The highest performers (assuming roughly similar products) lose because they have not executed their selling process or connected with the customer as well as the competitor has.

If we focus on killing the competitor, if we are predatory in dealing with the customer, we fail.  We perform at low levels, we do the customer a disservice, we do our organizations a disservice, and we do ourselve a disservice.

Words are important.  They shape perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors.  I don’t want to be a part of a profession that defines itself as predatory or views the occupation as a blood sport.  This type of terminology needs to be excised from our vocabularies and our discussions.  If we don’t we will be sink to a lower standard of performance and we deserve the lack of trust, and everything else that customers feel.  We’ve earned it!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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