Mr. Sales Manager, Tear Down This Sign!

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my friend, Mike Weinberg. We were both sort of chuckling at the idea that one of his clients had a “no soliciting” sign on their front door.

There is a certain irony to be found in the act of walking into an office to train salespeople and passing a sign saying “no soliciting” on the way in (sometimes that sign seems to be designed to prevent any proactive sales call from occurring by the company’s own salespeople, too, sadly enough).

The message is intended to prevent salespeople from entering the office and attempting to sell their goods, services, or their solutions. But the message is stronger than that. It’s incongruent, and it says something to and about your sales force.

A Certain Incongruence

I never gave our conversation another thought—until today. The office across the hall from where I was working today is a “marketing firm.” They hire, train, and manage door-to-door salespeople and telemarketers. Their turnover is, as you might imagine, shockingly high. And they are constantly recruiting.

And there, on their front door, is a sign. What does the sign say? As you expected, the sign says, “no soliciting.”

At some point, the newly hired salespeople have to be trained. They have be taught to call on their customers, and I can’t in my wildest imagination believe that this company isn’t spending countless hours of training on closing and objection handling; that is their business. I am sure that they train their salespeople on features and benefits, too.

But they are also, ever so subtly, training their salespeople to believe that they are not value creators, that they are time wasters, and that the default position for smart companies and smart people is to avoid salespeople at all costs. The best thing to do is to cut them off at the pass and reject them straightaway, because nothing the salesperson could say or do would be worth taking the time to explore.

Too subtle, you say? I make a tenuous argument? The salespeople don’t even notice the sign? I disagree. The sign is at odds—or it should be—with how the company really feels about salespeople. It is incongruent.

What Is Your Message?

Too many young people already believe that selling is not a noble profession (it is!). Too many are already too soft (they wouldn’t a hard sell if they saw one). Too many already believe that selling involves waiting for business to come to you and that using tools replaces real selling attributes and skills (both bad ideas).

Now, some young salespeople are being taught to close, to overcome objections, to pitch features and benefits, and that prospective customers are trying to avoid them. They are being trained in tactics to get in and persuade. They are being trained by in low value creation selling by companies that they themselves hate low value creation selling.

Mr. Sales Manager, Tear Down This Sign

This company should take down the sign.

Their salespeople should be taught how to really sell. They should be taught how to create value during every interaction with their dream clients. And, they should be taught that influence and persuasion isn’t found in tactics—it’s found the age-old character traits that have always made people with influence worth following and worth buying from.

Other sales organizations with a “no soliciting” sign should take theirs down, too.

The message it sends to your own sales force about how you feel about salespeople isn’t worth it. Instead, learn to politely say “no” to salespeople who can’t create value for you and your company—and hope your prospective clients treat your salespeople with the same courtesy.


What does a “no soliciting” sign say to the salespeople who work for the company that hung it?

What should the company teach its salespeople is the right way to respond to that sign? Should they obey it? Should they ignore it?

What do people believe we really believe when our actions are incongruent with our words?

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Filed under: Sales

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