Is sales still a dirty word?

Thursday 27 September 2012

I have always loved working in sales, so was surprised when my colleague Ian told me that 70% of the sales jobs in London remain unfilled. Crazy isn’t it, and in this economic climate! It made me start to think about whether the word sales still has that bad reputation, that dirty word feeling, that it used to have. It never has for me, as it’s all about serving customers and meeting their needs; yet does it for others?

I think the reason why some people are negative about sales as a career is because they think it’s a high pressure, pushy environment, where the sale is all that matters, regardless of whether the customer actually wants the product. The old “selling snow to Eskimos” scenario.

In my opinion though, selling is something that pretty much every single one of us does, either knowingly or not, in our everyday life. We may have to “sell” an idea of going away to our family/partner, or engaging someone at work to undertake a project for you; you get the idea. Even the highest qualified lawyer will be building their client base, looking for referrals, keeping existing clients satisfied and, more importantly, getting them to come back for more. If that’s not selling, then what is!

One of my clients, Barbara Sutherland, has written an article about how Lloydspharmacy has been travelling this same journey with their in-store pharmacists. We’ve been working hard with them over the last twelve months to change this mind-set and bring in the belief that selling customers the things that they want is actually good customer service.

People buy from people, you know that, I know that, especially people they like, respect and trust. This is true regardless of whether is it a B2C or B2B sales. So, the key thing for the sales person is to build trust. How? By showing their customers their values and pride, passion and knowledge. By being reliable, credible and honest.

We’ve all experienced the horrors of the scripted contact centre call, be it the recent barrage of non-personal calls at various times of the day and night, even through text messages about PPI claims. You know what it’s like on the receiving end: some flimsy excuse for calling, little or no information that is relevant to you as a customer, and a complete absence of listening or real needs-based conversation.

Selling isn’t specifically taught at school or college, unlike its more popular sibling marketing. If it were, perhaps more young people would be interested in a career in sales, seeing it as a great opportunity, not a dirty word.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you call it sales, business development or account management, the important thing is that you feel comfortable doing it, that you can have natural conversations that focus on what the customer needs, now and in the future.

Sales is not a dirty word when the selling is done with the customer and in their best interests. In fact, it can be hugely satisfying for both parties!

This post was written by

Mark BW McDermott

Account Director

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