The Good and Bad of Sales
- B2B Sales can be the most fulfilling of professions. It offers the possibilities of creativity and service that few other professions can match.
- B2B Sales professionals have the potential to create tremendous value for both buying and selling organisations. A top sales person creates this value by being the link between customer and vendor.
- It is a career that offers unparalleled independence and flexibility of work arrangements
- It can be extremely rewarding financially. It is not uncommon for the top sales person in an organisation to earn more than the business manager or CEO.
- Sales is the least professional of all professions with no governing society, no university degree, no entry requirements and virtually no training.
- Hardly any company provides adequate sales training. The few that do, lead their industries.
- Buyers seldom value sales people, they are often only tolerated and if a buyer can avoid a sales person they probably will. Fortunately for sales people, buyers need to buy.
- Incredibly, businesses large and small entrust the income side of their business to untrained sales people.
- In the short term, sales results are heavily influenced by chance.
- Any human activity with a strong element of chance generates wrong-headed beliefs and prescriptions. Like "get rich quick schemes", "how to win at gambling" and "Golf tips" books.
- The most important sales skill is mastery of the sales conversation because all other sales activities are grounded in the information that comes from the customer conversation. Mastery of the customer conversation is the first and primary skill to focus on in training.
- Low quality sales dialogues deliver only low value business.
- High value sales dialogues lead to high value business - for both buyer and seller.
There is tremendous untapped potential in effective sales skill development because almost no one does it well.
Sales people need to be taught how to have effective, creative win-win customer dialogues. Until a sales person has this skill they are unsafe in a customer meeting.
Acquiring solid customer conversation skills requires one-on-one tuition over an extended period of time for most sales candidates. Sales as a profession will continue to suffer a poor reputation until sales people are properly trained.
A hierarchy of sales skills
Sales skills are often presented as a hierarchy because skills at the base are required for mastery of skills above. A basic objective of a customer conversation is to uncover and quantify the plans, challenges and aspirations of the customer. It is this customer understanding which forms the basis of any proposal or sales presentation, negotiation or pricing strategy.
It is our experience that few selling organisations commit sufficient training and development effort to mastering the basic customer conversation.
Furthermore, we believe that there is an instruction problem with the way sales conversation skills are taught. Customer conversation skills are typically taught in a classroom environment as part of a Sales “101" course that usually includes training on other aspects of the sales role. This method dilutes the importance of conversation skills but more importantly a classroom environment is normally not the best for learning something that needs individual practice.
Sales “101" courses have reasonable content, normally based on a trademarked conversation methodologies such as SPIN™, Solution Selling™ or RAIN™. Our issue is not with the content but with the teaching method. A two day classroom course on conversation skills is not sufficient to ensure even a basic skill level.
We believe and maintain that:
- Mastery of the sales conversation requires repeated practise over a sustained period with individualised instruction and feedback.
- Mastery of the sales conversation is not "101" basic. It is the fundamental and complex skill that separates top sales performers from the majority of sales practitioners. It is difficult to do well and master sales people spend their entire careers honing this skill.
- The job is never done when it comes to sales conversation skills - there is always something to learn