You’re In Sales… I’m sorry.
I don’t know what the first job in the world was, but sales was most definitely the second. The sales function has been a cornerstone of our society since long before bartering was a thing, but in today’s world the sales person is universally hated. This makes no sense, because people like Daniel Pink have been making the case that virtually everyone is in sales.
In the United States, about 1 in 9 people have a job that falls into traditional “sales.” Big deal. The real story is how the other 8 of us spend an average of 40% of our time doing the same activities a traditional salesperson does: persuading, influencing, and convincing others.
Like it or Not, We’re All in Sales Now.
The traditional notion of selling as a function reserved only for salespeople has slowly gone extinct. Today, nearly every job requires some level of persuasion and influence. Whether you’re pitching a new idea to your boss, convincing a team member to adopt a new approach, or simply trying to get others to see things from your perspective, you’re engaged in selling. This becomes even more apparent if you’ re a leader in – or owner of – a small business.
“But Robert,” you might say, “I don’t sell people, I educate people… not sell them.” As if selling something is a dirty vice that must never be indulged. I’d say to you that every teacher you’ve ever had never held out a collection plate at the door on the way out. There is nothing wrong with teaching, but at some point you have get money from someone who is not currently giving you money. Later, you’ll probably want them to give you more money.
How do you plan on doing that?
Sales is a Zero-Sum Game
While I do believe in fostering an abundance mindset, the very definition of the term Economics means that there isn’t always enough to go around. Especially when it comes to the world of technology support and security, there will always be IT Consultants, MSP, and MSSP’s that just don’t get enough business. Some companies will never make ends meet, or grow to accomplish their goals.
You will always get a certain amount of new clients from simply showing up, and doing a good job. And to be fair, the list of companies that never need to take their sales very seriously is fairly long. Sometimes the need is so desperate, and the potential solutions so scarce, that simply existing is enough to win all you need. Congratulations if you’re in that camp, I hope it lasts. In my experience however, all good things eventually come to an end. Someday you might have to learn how to sell in a competitive arena.
The Best Salesperson Usually Wins,
Not the Best Company
In a world where solutions are complex, and clients have a hard time understanding what you even do, every provider starts to look the same. You can’t often buy “regular” anything these days. It’s always: new, improved, advanced, unique, cutting-edge, AI powered, data-driven, solutions. To the prospect, we sound exponentially more alike then different. Which means the salesperson is the only meaningful variable left at play.
According to research provided by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon, the seller that can create or provide the most value to the buyer – in the sales process itself – is the one that wins the agreement most of the time. What this means for you and me is that yes, you need to teach, but you also have to be a black belt in helping people make tough choices.
How Do You Spot a Perfect Salesperson?
I once asked a business owner where he thought he was in his sales craft. He answered, “oh, about a six out of 10.” When I asked him what it would take to be a full 10, he said, “I will probably have to lie a lot more, and push people to buy things they don’t need.” This blew my mind, because it’s categorically and completely false.
If you sell flashlights or candy bars, then yes… Your job is to get people to buy. But if your job is to sell a complex solution, your job is not to get people to buy: it’s to get them to choose. I don’t mean choose you necessarily, I mean to make a choice at all. The truest and best version of a sales person, is an individual that helps those in pain make a good choice about how to solve that pain. If it involves giving money to the sales person, all the better. However, it’s not what makes them great at sales.
People who are great at sales help their prospects sift through the complex minutia and variables, so those prospects can make wise decisions.
So the question remains: Are you helping people make better decisions? Are you just trying to get their money? Are you merely “educating” and then leaving them to their own devices and confusion?
I submit to you that the best way you can serve the people around you is by mastering your sales craft. Investing in your ability to sell well, will create the most value for everyone… Even those end up working with another provider. You’ll end up with more, better clients. You’ll get more referrals from your network, and you’ll be known as a true advisor.