If I had $1 for every time I’ve heard someone say, usually with great emphasis, “I am NOT a salesperson!” I probably wouldn’t be writing this post.
In some cases, based on the role some people were in, I understood their belief. Certain people in any organization truly don’t think they are in sales. In other cases, though, I heard this declaration from people with such titles as business development officer, relationship manager, and trust officer, to name a few. With these individuals, their words had nothing to do with not thinking they were in sales. Instead they were AFRAID they were in sales! To them, sales belonged in George Carlin’s list of “dirty words.”
The reality is, as Daniel Pink relates in his book, “To Sell Is Human,” everyone is in sales today.1 While only 1 in 9 people are technically in a role categorized as a sales job, we all spend a meaningful portion of our days trying to persuade, convince, or otherwise move others to do something we want them to do. By loose definitions, that is selling. For those people whose roles don’t involve regular, direct contact with clients or prospects, grasping Daniel Pink’s concept can help. No matter what someone’s job description is, everyone’s role is critical to the ongoing sales efforts of any business.
However, it’s the negative mindset toward sales that needs to be changed.
Most people with this belief are in roles that have direct, regular contact with clients and prospects. Their fear and avoidance of sales costs businesses significant business every year. Properly handling employees with this belief and creating a positive change is a delicate task. The simplest way is to create specific sales-oriented metrics and begin holding those individuals accountable to them. While this method is simple and quick, it is also completely ineffective. This approach may generate greater sales from a few people, but what improvement you see will be short-lived as the negative mindset is not changed. I have seen this method employed more than once and never with a successful outcome.
In my experience, the best approach with these individuals is to engage a dialogue around their beliefs.
You cannot change a mindset that you don’t understand. By bringing an entire team together and having everyone share their beliefs and concerns about being considered a “salesperson,” you are taking a huge step in the positive direction. Regardless of the issue at hand, one of the reasons most people resist change is that they’re feelings and beliefs are never heard. Hearing what is behind your employees’ mindset around sales is critical. You are engaging them on this issue from where they are.
From there, you can work together as a team and as manager-employee to gradually work through their beliefs and concerns. Through some combination of knowledge training, sales skill enhancement, and lots of role-play and practice you will see a new mindset emerge. Like the old saying about Rome, a positive mindset toward sales is not built in a day. But each day can provide positive reinforcement to the new belief that sales is not a dirty word.
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