Don't Hate the Salesperson

Don’t Hate Salespeople, Hate the Person

[OK, so you shouldn’t hate anyone, but; “Don’t Have Significant Issues With…” is nowhere near as catchy.]

In an otherwise spot-on article by Peter Smith; “Why do we hate (our own) sales people?“, he made what I believe is a fundamental error. Especially given his premise.

He says of salespeople that they are the “…life blood of the company…”, that; “If they don’t sell, the rest of the company doesn’t work.“, and finally that “These are your top performers.“. It’s that many salespeople actually see themselves this way that causes a lot of the resentment or even hatred.

There is absolutely no questions that sales is a critical function in any organisation, but it’s not the most important. There is no such thing as a most important department. It’s like saying the heart is the most important organ in body, just try living without your liver.

Who makes the products or services they sell? Who delivers them? Who arranges all the financing etc? Who ensures the contracts are in order? Without any one of these things no company can survive. A real salesperson is only ever as good as the things they sell, and the teams around them.

I say a ‘real’ salesperson because they are the ones with both the integrity to only sell what the client needs (not asks for), and to use his/her entire support team in the process to ensure mutual benefit.

From my experience, the majority of my issues with salespeople fall into three main categories:

  1. Lack of Product/Service Knowledge: We’ve all met salespeople like this, all smiles and no substance. This is not a salesperson, this is a clown, a real salesperson is extremely well versed in his/her wares. They may not be an expert in the overarching subject (cybersecurity for example), but they know who is, and whom to bring to the table when required to answer the prospect’s questions. The best salespeople I’ve worked with are facilitator who piece together solutions by putting the right people in front of each other.
    o
  2. Selling to Their Quota: I use the word hate way too often, but I REALLY hate the American way of selling. The quota system is ridiculous, and forces salespeople into a never ending spiral of price compression and end-of-quarter discounts. You sell my time as a consultant for half what it’s worth just to reach your target and we’ll having a very short conversation. Words like ‘fired’ and ‘incompetent’ will be used liberally.
    o
  3. Selling Outside of Their Skill-Set: To me there are two types of salesperson:
    o
    Hunters
     – Very aggressive, easily bored, hates detail, DESPISES paperwork. Basically, these folks want to get in, get the deal signed, and move on to the next ‘battle’.
    o
    Growers – Less aggressive, and tend to prefer to relate to the client on a more personal level. These are the folks who will take the initial sale and turn it into years of up-sells / cross-sells though their deepening understanding of a) the client’s business b) the client’s people, and c) the state of their security program.
    o
    Selling outside of your skill-set is a sure way to mess the whole thing up for everyone.

A real  salesperson does none of these things, and I have met some truly exceptional salespeople whom I am also honoured to call friends.

So if you hate salespeople, you either have a company full of bad ones, or you have no idea what they do. Selling is difficult, VERY difficult, and a good salesperson has a skill-set most of us cannot even hope to duplicate. As an introvert, the very thought of doing what they do every day gives me the willies. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. From research on prospective customers, to getting the first meeting lined up, to pitching an appropriate statement of work, the amount of work that goes into a sale is enormous.

From the other side, and as Peter Smith said very eloquently; “If a person is worried about having sales in their job title, then they probably do not have the right DNA.“.

Salespeople are necessary, they are NOT a necessary evil. But if you think you have what it takes to be one, try it for 6 months, 99% of you will beg for your old job back.

I know I would.