Is Sales Getting Soft?


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Many regular readers may be a little surprised about this post.  I’ve been very vocal about sales being consultative, customer focused, and creating value for the customer in their buying process.  I’ve been (and continue) to be very much against the old line “hard sell” tactics.

Having said all that, over the past few months, there has been too much discussion that leads me to believe that we may be getting so oblique in the way we describe what we do.  First, there’s the name sensitivity.  It’s hard to find anyone with the title “Sales Person” on their business card.  We do anything but call ourselves sales people—we’re trusted advisers, partners, relationship managers, even facilitators.  We don’t want to be pushy, we want to be consultative, may even at times provocative.

We don’t want customers to think we are just out for their money—but aren’t we really?  Don’t we want to get their orders, get their money so we can book revenue for our companies, making them grow and thrive?  As individuals, we are goal driven–and most sales people I work with are measured by some form of orders, sales, revenues.

When it gets down to it, as a sales professional, I’m only going to invest my time and energy into prospects where I see a reasonable likelihood they will be spending money on me!  I’m not going to waste my time on those that don’t want to spend money or those that are very unlikely to spend it on me.

But is being focused on achieving revenue and our goals inconsistent with being consultative, creating value in every meeting with the customer, or helping them solve their business problems?  I really don’t think it is.  If we weren’t focusing on opportunities where prospects/customers have a compelling business issue they want to address, and if they weren’t interested in talking about how we could solve their problems, we’d just be wasting their time. 

I see the sales professional’s focus on generating revenue for her company as being perfectly aligned in working with customers to demonstrate how our solutions can solve their problems and helping them to achieve their goals.

“Selling” has earned much of the negative connotation that we see through old line, hard sell tactics.  But by using different words — eliminating the noun–salesperson, or the verb–selling from the work we do with our customers could be misleading as well.  To dance around the fact that we want them to spend money on us hides our real objectives.

I’m a sales professional, I expect the successful outcome of engaging with a customer or prospect will result in an order and money being spent—hopefully on me.  I’ll do the best job I can at selling, I work with customers who I expect to do the best job they can at buying.  And we will be absolutely aligned.

Am I missing something?

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.


  1. Dave, what you describe is truly unfortunate for the sales profession. It’s almost as if “sales” is a four letter word.

    But without sales, there would be no business.

    We’ve all had a mix of good and bad sales experiences. But then the same is true of customer service. Or marketing.

    The negative perception of sales goes back a long time. You and I both worked at IBM years ago. I started right out of school as a Systems Engineer and worked with sales reps. Except they weren’t called sales reps — IBM gave them titles of “marketing representative.” Why?

    I didn’t find out until much later that the rest of the world thought “marketing” meant something else!

    Personally, I don’t think we should shy away from the “s” word. It’s an honorable and incredibly important profession. But what can be done to deal with the negative perception?

  2. Bob, thanks for the comment. Sales is something we should be proud of. Professional sales people create a lot of value for their customers.


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