The Trouble with Sales


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The title of this post and the fact that I’m in marketing suggest that what’s to follow is a rant about all of the things that salespeople do wrong. It isn’t. The trouble with sales is that it still suffers from an image problem.

Last week I was listening to a university professor on the radio discussing Machiavelli’s The Prince. He likened it to a spin doctor’s guidebook, saying “that’s why they teach it to real estate agents and salespeople.”

That is the trouble with sales. People are always eager to perpetuate the myth that selling is faintly disreputable. And of course the trouble isn’t caused purely by those outside the industry offering their “educated opinions”: multiple examples of mis-selling in the last few years haven’t helped the industry either.

The suggestion is that salespeople have to practice Machiavellian cunning in order to peddle goods or services that you don’t really need. But in 2013 would this Machiavellian salesperson really thrive—when potential customers can find out what others are saying about you as well as your organisation via web sites and social media before they decide whether to even contact you? The 2012 Buyersphere Report, a survey of B2B buyer behaviour in Europe, found that 87 percent of buyers go out and look for advice before buying. They won’t find Machiavellian salespeople based on recommendations, award nominations, or other credible sources.

As businesses struggle to strike a balance between growing revenue and managing costs, there is increasing pressure on salespeople. A December 2012 Which? investigation found that 65 percent of bank employees in sales roles reported being under more pressure than ever to meet goals set for them.

Star sales performers are certainly tenacious and focused. An organisation which places importance solely on hitting revenue goals runs a risk: the pressure that hitting the goals creates can drive salespeople to employ dubious methods to achieve results. This is avoidable, however, if two things are in place:

  1. Positive organisational climate: A healthy climate increases employee motivation and catalyses more effective performance. Even when there is pressure to meet tough targets, employees understand the organisation’s goals and standards. They are committed to achieving them—and they are recognised for positive behaviours. Research has shown a direct correlation between organisational climate and financial results.
  2. Strong sales manager: Leaders create a positive climate by setting high standards and helping their employees to meet them. They ensure that their team members remain focused on strategic goals—and that they are not tempted to employ reactionary short-term tactics. Strong sales managers reinforce positive behaviours by leading by example and providing ongoing coaching support to their team.

Recent research has shown that the most successful sales organisations place an equal emphasis on creating the right organisational climate and ensuring strong performance and results. Do you agree that sales is suffering from an image problem? Join the conversation by commenting below or on social media.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Holly Gage
Holly works for The Forum Corporation in London as the Marketing Director, EMEA. She has been with Forum for seven years, during which time she has also worked in Singapore where she was also responsible for marketing across Asia-Pacific.


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