As I was skimming through Zite earlier today, a blog by Mark Hunter (or The Sales Hunter as his website bills him) caught my attention. The headline: “Sales Motivation Video: Just Go For It! Stop Second Guessing Yourself!” Now, in all fairness, I don’t know Mr. Hunter. I find him to be an engaging speaker, and based on the video, I suspect he is genuine in his desire to help sales people.
What struck me is the sheer volume of motivational material there is for sales people. In fact, my Google search for “Motivational Videos for Sales” returned 7,000+ links, and that’s using the exact phrase search. Clearly, sales people need motivation. That got me thinking: I wonder if doctors, lawyers and other professionals are equally in need of motivation in order to do their jobs? So I did my own, albeit highly un-scientific study, and here is what I found.
|Motivation Video for…||With Quotes||Without Quotes|
Clearly, sales people need much more help getting motivated than other professionals!
I doubt many people reading this would be horribly surprised to learn that sales people, not doctors, nurses, or even lawyers, frequently struggle with call reluctance. After all, why wouldn’t we? How many people hang up on or no-show for meetings with their lawyer, doctor, or nurse? Relatively few, I suspect. Yet, even I find myself reluctant to talk with sales people who call my office wanting to enlighten me on the considerable benefits of their mind-blowing new solution to all my issues and challenges. Clearly there is considerable money to be made by delivering to the sales audience what amounts to the professional equivalent of self-help material. I am certainly not suggesting these videos and books don’t offer the reluctant, dejected, beaten-down sales person some much needed hope. What I am suggesting is that a more fundamental change is needed if we are to truly transform our profession; a change that if it takes hold will allow future sales people to experience the same respect other professionals enjoy AND get paid.
Selling as a Service
However, this change requires both a change in heart and a change in tactics. We have all seen the statistics about the power shift in the buyer/seller relationship, but just in case, I will illustrate the point that we don’t need sales people to tell customers about our products and services. So, does that mean, as Brian de Haaf noted in his blog “Why This CEO Will Never Hire Another Salesperson” that the entire profession is dead? Absolutely not. What it does mean is that the sales profession can no longer support self-serving, glad-handing people who bring no real value to their customers and prospects while attempting to cajole them into buying things that bring little or no real value.
The future of selling is serving!
When sales people possess the skill and knowledge to SERVE their prospects and customers, not just with their solutions, but with the very engagement, we will earn respect, deliver real value, and earn good money ALL AT THE SAME TIME! Perhaps Brian is correct about the need for a different compensation model, or perhaps not. One thing, however, is certain. When sales people are helping prospects and customers by leveraging expertise that brings tangible value, the constant battle for motivation and the need to overcome call reluctance will likely be as outdated as overhead transparencies.
More a Journey than a Destination
To be fair, this isn’t a simple change to make. We have a long history of training sales people in everything from product hawking, to solution selling, to overcoming objections. Often times, this training has actually pitted sellers AGAINST the very people we should be serving: our customers and prospects. If I had a nickel for every time I heard an aspiring sales person utter the phrase, “buyers are liars”… wait, my age is showing. Anyway, we have some history to overcome, but it may well be that the very existence of our profession depends on our ability to transform into true trusted advisors. Frankly, transforming the profession will require the same commitment to continuous learning and development made by other professionals. It will require hiring the most talented people possible and ensuring that those people we hire actually possess key traits such as emotional intelligence and a servant’s heart.
The need for change is certainly not lost on the sales training industry. There is a crop of new training programs for selling that promises everything from making your people more insightful, to helping them challenge customers and prospects, to making them better at storytelling. And while many have merit, few if any are addressing the larger problem – sales training itself has very limited impact. We need to do more than just change the content; we need to transform the very model for how we develop people if we are going to transform customer engagement and business results.
From classroom training events to the standard Performance Improvement Plan, or PIP, we need to rethink our approach. This includes taking a new look at mature technologies such as CRM to find ways to integrate learning and development into the cadence of how people sell and manage. Implemented properly, even the CRM can enable people to get incrementally and continuously better, allowing them to compete FOR customers more effectively by better leveraging their ever-evolving skill and knowledge.
Naturally, this transformation comes at a cost. However, the potential payoff can be tremendous if we can evolve into a profession that actually attracts the best and brightest talent. For companies that take the lead in the transformation, there are tremendous advantages. These include better financial performance, more effective teams, lower turnover, and an improved culture. Even now, a number of forward thinking companies are seeing the shift happening and realizing a tremendous return on their investment.
Does Anyone Really Want to Become a Salesperson?
Not long ago, while attending a conference at a well-known university that offers a degree in professional selling, I was reminded of just how few people actually intend to work in sales. The university representative recounted a survey conducted for all students who enrolled in their introductory sales course. Can you guess what percentage of the students signed up for the professional selling course actually intended to become sales professionals after earning a degree? Zero percent! Amazing, isn’t it? Even the people taking a class on selling don’t expect to become sales professionals. And yet, a significant portion of a given graduating class will likely end up in sales, despite having earned a degree in marketing, engineering, art-history, or some other area of study.
Someday, this same survey will produce a dramatically different outcome. Someday, our most talented college graduates will compete for the chance to enter a profession known for ongoing learning and development, as well as the service it provides. And while this probably means a significant reduction in the number of motivational videos and books, it also means an unparalleled level of trust and respect for people who serve in the sales profession.