A Compendium of Weak Thinking About Sales

As much as we might want things to be black and white in sales, there is a lot of gray. Even more, the fact that things have changed, does not mean that everything that came before now is no longer effective or useful. Evolution transcends and includes what came before.

“Commissions drive bad sales behaviors and a self-orientation because so many salespeople are motivated by money and will do anything to make more. Salespeople can’t be trusted to do right by their clients because they have a variable component to their compensation.”

For this premise to be true, salespeople would have to actually win sales by being self-oriented conmen and con-women who willingly take advantage of their prospective clients. Those prospective clients would also have to be so naïve as to be easily duped by said money-grubbing salespeople.

What is extraordinary about this thinking is that many of those who hold the belief that commissions cause bad behavior also believe that buyers are extraordinarily well educated, and know as much or more than the salespeople who are calling on them. They are wholly unaware of these conflicting beliefs.

Think about your friends and family members who sell. Are they the kind of people who behave badly and would cheat a client to make a few bucks? Or, is it more likely that they value the relationship more than the transaction, preferring a long-term relationship over a short-term gain. More still, is it likely that the kind of salesperson that would need to dupe their prospective client would be the kind of salesperson that is smart enough to do so?

“Sales is mostly aggressive, by-the-numbers, take-no-prisoner cultures being poorly led by Cro-Magnon and Neanderthals who will do anything to make their number.”

Less than half of salespeople make their number. Most of them will still work in sales after missing their number, and mostly for the same company they work for now. A lot of them find it very difficult to be fired.

There are certainly aggressive, self-oriented sales cultures. There are, no doubt, sales cultures with leaders who can rationalize their willingness to take advantage of a prospective client. These, however, are the exception, and not the rule. The reason movies like Glengarry Glenn Ross and Boiler Room draw our interest is because the behaviors are so rare, not because they are so widespread. Is that what your place of business looks like?

“Thanks to the Internet, buyers know everything they need to know, and so salespeople can no longer create any real value. They are already 57 percent through the process without a salesperson, so all you can do is spend time on social media.”

If buyers know everything they need to know, why are they not already producing the better results that are available to them? If they are doing so much research on the Internet and are aware of all of the choices available to them, why then haven’t they happened upon your offering, recognized what they are missing, and immediately picked up the phone to call you to remedy their existing challenges?

If your clients produce the better results you could help them generate without you, why haven’t they?

The truth about the 57 percent statistic from CEB, now Gartner, is that you are supposed to be creating opportunities when your client is at 0 percent. It was never CEB’s intention that this statistic suggest that you wait passively, nor that you have no value to create. The idea of “challenger” is that you have a unique insight that allows you to create value.

Always and never are generalizations, and all generalizations, even useful ones, are lies.

The undercurrent here is that everything from the past is wrong, so anything new must be correct. This is weak thinking. It starts from a premise that there is a single right answer, and that anything to the contrary is incorrect. The danger in mutual exclusivity is that it eliminates choices. It assumes that there things are black and white, that there is no gray.

In doing so, this thinking ignores the fact that sales is a complex, dynamic, human interaction with too many variables to be defined by a set of finite rules. Its weakness is in its assuming that there is a single approach that is to be used universally. Selling requires choices of action, and that requires the weighing of different options to determine the best course of action based on a set of facts and circumstances that may differ wildly from deal to deal.

Compensation is tricky, and what works for one company will not work for another. Some sales cultures are unhealthy, just like there are unhealthy cultures in law firms, hospitals, and non-profits. Some of your prospects spend time researching on the Internet, and others never do any. And some things that once worked still work exceedingly well, and some are no longer as useful in some cases.

Make good choices and do good work.

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