04 Aug Define it or Deny It – What’s the Problem With the Word “Sales”?
How you feel about the word “sales” largely depends on the culture of your organization. Companies that are driven by sales vision and leadership tend to embrace and reward the sales role. More operational focused companies, or those that don’t traditionally see themselves as sales focused, do not embrace the semantics as well.
Many recent LinkedIn discussions have focused on the word “sales”. “Does the word “sales” have negative connotations?” “Should you call yourself something other than “sales”? “What is the difference between “sales” and “business development?”
While working with a client to define sales and service outcomes, one of the project team members said, “This is exactly what we need. One thing though, let’s not call this sales. Let’s think of a different title, one that is not so intimidating.” We had agreed to the expected outcomes of the program, which was for representatives to recognize customer needs and position solutions to help them reach their personal and business financial goals. Sounds like sales to me!
Titles are not that significant. What really matters is that you define what “sales” means to your organization and to your customers. My advice to the client was simple – “Call it what it is. Don’t deny it – define it!”
As the sales profession has evolved, so have the methods, beliefs and descriptions thereof. We define the primary approaches to sales and service as transactional, emotional and consultative. Most sales-oriented companies have embraced some form of consultative selling. With that said – that does not guarantee that everyone in the organization understands what that means to the company or what it means to customers, or that they are skilled in related competencies. Communicating your company beliefs and expectations regarding sales and customer service is critical. If your people are uneasy about the word “sales”, consider clarification such as:
- You are not going to “convince” anyone to buy anything if they do not have a need or want, realized or not.
- Great service is foundational to customer relationships and is foundational to the sales process, but it is not selling. Just providing good service will not gain you more sales.
- Selling is a two way street – the solutions should be good for you and for your customer.
- Consultative selling is a matter of understanding the customer’s core business, their goals and needs and positioning solutions that are valued for each individual stakeholder.
- You should feel good about what you recommend to customers, that taking your recommendation is positive for them.
Three Ways to Define Sales
Traditional/Transactional Selling – Those who subscribe to traditional selling tend to take a product-oriented approach to sales. They respond to customer inquiries with little regard or understanding of the customer’s situation or latent needs. They may seek to understand customer needs, but with the focus on making a sale. Traditional salespeople tend to stress features and benefits over value for the customer. Presentations tend to be more of a monologue.
Emotional Selling – This is very seller-centric. Those who subscribe to emotional selling take the stance that if the customer likes them and they provide good service, that is most important and they will get whatever opportunities are available. This is a very non-assertive approach to selling, one which is not a good use of time for the customer or the salesperson.
Consultative Selling – Salespeople who use a consultative approach are collaborative and agile, adjusting to the needs of the customer and their specific circumstances. They are advisors, seeking to understand their customer’s core business, their goals and vision and the motivation for each influencer. They position solutions according to the impact on the business and address value for each influencer.
If you embrace consultative selling, or a similar approach, then defining what that means should encourage your people to embrace the word “sales” as well. Make sure that you are specific. Enlist your employees to help set the corresponding expectations and standards in order to promote ownership.