For the last 5 years I’ve had the pleasure of delivering regular sales masterclasses for GC Business Growth Hub aimed at Greater Manchester SME’s wanting to grow their businesses. Around 12 different businesses participate in each masterclass.
One of the key learning objectives is to help each business owner understand how ‘sales’ is viewed and more importantly, used within their business. I always start by asking a simple question “Do you like, love or loath sales?” An overwhelming majority admit to loathing sales and the sales process. One participant recently described how they viewed sales as “a bit grubby”. A statement that many others agreed with.
Further questioning reveals that as these owners describe 'sales' they tend to focus in on examples where they, or someone they know, has experienced some form of dodgy sales practice. For example: They’ve been overpromised and under delivered. The stated price had risen dramatically with additional add-ons. They been trapped in a pressured sales environment or pestered constantly with unsolicited telephone calls. This is the domain of what I call the sales person.
These less than honest or trustworthy practices sit in stark contrast to the domain of the sales professional. Here, the sales professional takes pride in their undertaking and engaging with customers to discover and serve their needs in a way which makes repeat business highly likely. The sales professional works hard at their craft and is always learning and developing their skills.
When I started my first proper sales role (selling facsimile machines) my business card carried the title - Sales Executive. The two brothers who owned the firm and trained me were described by those who met them as ‘natural born sales people’. They looked and acted the part to me as a naïve sales novice. Suited, booted and driving nice cars they seemed to have the gift of the gab and fulfilled a stereotype of what I thought sales was. However, during my 6 week long sales induction programme I realised that these two were anything but natural born sales people. They were sales professionals with a clear plan. Like good magicians or actors they worked hard at their craft behind the scenes and thus, when they performed they made it seem natural.
Every time I was with them they had a book, magazine or audio on the go. They recommended different books across a wide range of subjects to me to read in order to develop my sales skills. I learnt some important basic concepts from them about sales and the need to develop my skills, knowledge and attitude towards sales. Sales, they taught should always be a win-win situation if you want sustained customers. Sales was a worthy profession if done right and they believed in doing it right.
They taught me that profitable sales are the key to a successful business. Figuring out the difference between ‘a profitable sale’ and just ‘a sale’ required a little more effort and a different pitch. A sales professional doesn’t look for the short cut but will help the client understand their needs and wants and put a proposal in that suits the client and themselves.
When I teach sales, I ask business owners to think about building sales practices that reflect a professional approach to sales. This goes right across the business from developing and training the right skills, knowledge and sales attitude. Without this you’ll likely have sales people and not sales professionals in your business.
A knock on impact of people not loving sales is that they tend to avoid reading books or attending courses on sales. This further compounds their issue with sales as if they don’t develop their skills and knowledge they won’t be very good at the subject. Sales is a broad subject with a huge array of books available some useful some not so. Many attendees simply don’t know where to start their sales skills journey.
Reframing ‘sales’ as a positive and core component of a business helps attendees to shift their thinking about sales. From this new perspective, it’s much easier for people to reengage with sales and develop their specific knowledge to understand how to serve their clients better. Employing professional sales practices and developing a new sales strategy helps owners and staff to love sales and enjoy a more profitable business.
I’m passionate about good sales practices and helping customers to buy the right product as often as they need. Professional sales practices will help you and your business stand out in a crowd of sales amateurs. Profitable sales helps to sustain your business and serve your clients more effectively.
If you want to develop the sales skills in your business contact Know+Do today and ask for our advice.
I’d welcome your thoughts or comments on this important area.