I find it funny when I talk to people who say things like, “Oh, I could never be in sales, that’s not my personality.” I believe this comes from the negative stigma of the “used car salesmen” type of salesperson, ignoring the fact that most business to business sales cycles today are high level and complex and require a consultative approach versus a hard sell attitude.
Well, here’s the reality. Whether you like it or not, life is about sales. It may not be your main job function, but people are constantly selling, oftentimes with important consequences. Looking for a job, either initially or when changing companies or careers, is one of the most vital sales cycles you will ever lead, and you are the product. Qualifying, positioning, development of a value proposition, understanding the need you can fill…all are critical components of any job search, as they are in any sales cycle.
People sell their ideas every day, whether it is to their friends, their co-workers, their teachers, or their managers. They sell themselves within whatever field they have entered, always working to show that they are the ones who should be considered for the next project or the next promotion.
And let’s admit it, outside of the business arena, does anything scream “sales cycle” like dating? Listening more than talking, understanding needs, qualifying, proving your worth, becoming a valuable partner – the parallels go on and on and missteps have negative consequences. Sales 101, meet Dating 101.
But what I really want to focus on is the lack of sales attitude that exists within some companies. Too often the sales organization is seen as a separate entity responsible for bringing in revenue through the sale of the company’s products or services. But isn’t everyone in the company tied to that ultimate goal? Isn’t everyone in any company ultimately charged with doing everything possible to support revenue and profit retention and growth?
I can make this really simple, and state, with relative certainty, that if every employee in your organization started their response to every request, every task, every opportunity, every challenge or issue with, “What can I do to help us win / renew / retain / grow?”, the collective impact could be staggering. But how do we get to that point?
It’s about keeping the focus on the ultimate goal, the ultimate mission, which is management’s responsibility. Collectively and individually, the leaders of the organization, and the management of each functional area, need to constantly reinforce that the ultimate desired outcome is revenue and profit growth, which are closely linked to sales, renewals, customer satisfaction, innovation and the like. For example, your sourcing department is not just buying goods and services in a vacuum. They are procuring either the input needed for the product or service that eventually goes to your customers, or they are sourcing for items that will make the other departments that deal directly with clients and prospects more effective in doing their jobs. Finance is not about tracking the numbers. It’s about measuring the effectiveness of client offerings and the organization as a whole, and analyzing the best methods to increase sales, profitability and retention. Again, these departments and the employees who are part of them need to change their mindset away from thinking about the mechanics of their functions, and towards the greater organizational goals and how they can impact them each and every day.
The above examples are just two of many. Operations, Marketing, IT, Human Resources, Administration all can have a noticeable impact on our ultimate business goals, and thus contribute in a big way to the “selling” effort, if they can embrace their importance in the sales cycle and become part of what makes clients buy from us initially and keep buying from us on an ongoing basis.
And those of us in sales can help lead this metamorphosis. We can lead our organizations to a new way of thinking about what each employee does. When we draw battle lines between sales and operations, sales and marketing, sales and finance, etc., we force those employees to view us as some competing entity. But when we take on a role of leader, mentor, collaborator and work with all departments for the betterment of the company, always with an eye on the needs of the customer, we all win.
No company can succeed if sales is the only one selling. Everybody sells. It’s whether or not they admit it and, more importantly, embrace it that can determine the ultimate results.