Selling and the Mental Gag Reflex


It could be said that the art of selling has always been a complex mystery only made available to the few. In fact, good selling comes from just one simple criteria, just to be yourself.

That’s not to say that everyone is great at it first time around, if at all. But we can easily forget that in everything we do, whether at work or within our personal lives, we sell ourselves. We could be selling the idea that we’re listening to our friends by making good eye contact, we try and maintain a good credit score so that we can sell ourselves as financially viable for a mortgage, we keep secrets because we want others to buy into our trust. The only difference here is that we typically don’t realise that selling is for most people, a natural everyday activity.

As soon as the words ‘selling’, ‘sales’, or ‘targets’ are mentioned, there are a high proportion of people who needlessly induce what could be considered as a mental gag reflex. From the moment the words are spoken, those who stigmatise the act of selling could be compared to what you can observe when trying to put a cat in a bath of water.

Over the past few decades, businesses have found it easier to silo their staff as a result of not regularly reviewing how their jobs relate to their evolving markets. Marketing was traditionally left to those who could colour-in without going over the lines; those with little or no morals were dropped into sales, and those who appeared the more sane out of the bunch worked in the background making sure the lights stayed on. It was a bit like the rugby coach who placed the more portly guy in the front row of the scrum regardless of his ability or potential.

Since the pace at which businesses operates at is normally too fast to easily slow down, it has stayed that way because a change like this is for most, just too difficult for people to want to imagine.

Business owners should be creating are a set of roles and responsibilities in accordance to their business model that suit the strengths and capabilities of their staff. Shoe horning anyone into a job because a small percentage of their skills and experience qualify them is only at home in a business who wants a high churn of customers and staff.

Employees who recoil when their skill is acknowledged in any other way than ‘account management’ or because they’re ‘easy to get on with’ should be encouraged to overcome their fears. As far as a customer or client is concerned, it is the whole business that manages their account. From technical support to customer service, their account is managed in a way that should re-enforce the relationship and that encourages trust and mutual business growth. In this way, EVERYONE is an account manager and easy to get on with and all selling business relationships.

Why should an employee in the technical support team feel they are not contributing to the sales process? Situations like this should be investigated further, not only because they need to recognise their influence but also their contribution to the company’s overall success. If the business struggles with revenue targets, the finger is usually pointed at the sales team, and whilst they are largely responsible, management must ensure that the team as a whole contributes to their hits and misses.

Business owners and managers need to look at their staff carefully to understand exactly where each of their staff are best placed, not just for their own needs but for those of their customers. If you find that Janet is still rocking quietly in her chair at the thought of ‘cold calling’ then take her off the job – you’ll do more harm than good if you don’t. If cold calling is part of your business model, get someone who doesn’t bruise at every rejection and get Janet working on  warmer opportunities or helping care for existing customers where she can excel.

If John in your technical team has unsuccessfully attempted the ‘rugged’ look only to look like he hasn’t been asleep for three days straight (and this really does happen!), don’t send him out as the face of your company too hastily. That silent feedback clients emit when they try to hide their surprise as Bigfoot wanders into their office will quickly undo any good work you’ve achieved prior to this dramatic entrance. John may not think he’s selling when he’s going in on a post-sale job, but it’s likely your clients will tell you otherwise.

What’s more, selling only happens if there’s an exchange of value. Selling only happens if there is a market for what you offer and only if you are best positioned to communicate it properly.

No amount of trying to sell a comb to a bald man is going to work, and you could have diverted your energies to a more profitable activity such as researching your market better to help make the sales process easier for everyone. The more you help your staff sell, the less you’ll hear the disgruntled mumblings as they bang their heads against a wall.

Managed Service Providers evolving into Trusted Business Advisors must empower their staff by allowing them to be their best. All staff can learn to love a sale if you understand what drives them in the first place. Don’t stifle them with a job title that does more harm than good.

Restricting their potential limits the reset of the business, and it doesn’t make sense to create more obstacles in an economy that is hard enough to operate in. Find time to map out the requirements, roles and responsibilities of your business and avoid starting with your people and job titles. That way you’ll find any gaps that need fixing and the opportunity to bring out the best in who you already have.

Susanne Dansey is the Managing Director of Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that facilitates a paradigm shift in the collaborative nature of the ICT Industry. You can follow her on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.

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One thought on “Selling and the Mental Gag Reflex

  1. It is important to realize that most people consider a job in sales to be very tough and a competent manager or business owner must be prepared to handle the perceptions of their staff. The most common mistake that sales staff make is generating too much of their time to non-revenue generating activities. Salespeople not making their quotas quickly spouted off all of the hard work that they had completed the week before.

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