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There’s an episode of Seinfeld where the usual crew meet characters living a lifestyle that’s the polar opposite of their own. In a cultural nod to comic book convention, they call it Bizarro World.
We remembered this recently when a colleague shared an archive article from the Wall Street Journal suggesting that sales roles were becoming increasingly harder to fill for employers in the US. The global reality behind this suggestion is now validated year after year by Manpower Group. Apparently, today’s job hunters are put off by roles that are perceived as ‘risky, hard-charged & competitive’.
We have long lamented the flawed but conventional wisdom here in Ireland that ‘sales isn’t really a career’. But to see that sentiment reflected in the Wall Street Journal through the experience of Stateside employers – given that the U.S. is the home of professional selling (& buying!) – is as astonishing and disappointing now as it was then. At the time, no sooner had we checked that the world wasn’t flat & the Sun hadn’t started rising in the West, than Brian de Haaff rather proudly announced that he would ‘never hire another salesperson’ in an intriguing and somewhat provocative post on LinkedIn. However weird his thinking was, Brian’s post created a stir and was influential on people’s perception of sales roles. No doubt candidates were asking themselves – is sales a good job?
Both posts highlight how people (from CEOs to employees and even parents) just don’t get sales. Which is pretty surprising since the bottom line of every business is – literally – that it needs revenue, and it needs it On Time. This month. Next Month. And the month after that. And it is that dimension of Time that is so, so important: take out the salespeople and you dramatically increase the risk of missing both your number & your deadline. Most businesses simply can’t afford those delays because we all know – time is money.
There may be businesses out there that don’t have to do this. They have no public markets to placate, no investors to sate or so much money that survival is not an issue for them. But they are in a minority and they are certainly in Bizarro World, where commercial realities don’t bite.
Arguably most disconcerting of all is the latest perception around sales – which is that it requires little or no skills. The hackneyed stereotypes cited by the Journal are prehistoric. Anyone who has professionally sold (or bought) anything in the past will testify to how broad and deft a skillset is required to close a deal: focus, integrity, resilience, influence, communication, creativity, problem solving and relationship management. That’s a decent list to start with and in fact it forms the spine of ESI’s industry-leading sales skills programme.
Part of the problem is the euphemistic language of the Cloud generation. SaaS? Subscription business models have been around for decades. LTV-CAC? That used to be called Profitability. Customer Success? Client Services & Account Management. Growth Hacking? Lead Generation. Bizarro.
So perhaps the word ‘Sales’ and other relevant terms are the problem. If so, it’s pretty ironic that as we cultivate economies based on entrepreneurship, we may need to take words like “risk”, “competitiveness” and “numbers” out of job specs. to make roles attractive! The reality is that businesses everywhere – now more than ever – need to be relentlessly focused on delivering their numbers. And to do so, they have to recognise that they need a highly skilled team of people who will deliver on their own targets’ month after month, year after year. You can call them ‘Lead & Prospect Cultivation Engineer Specialists’ if you want. They will always be salespeople to us. And – as far as ESI is concerned – the commercial world doesn’t spin without them.
Yes of course it is. And building an effective sales team is an imperative for a commercial business. Don’t get caught up in poor thinking and neglect the professionals that drive your business revenue streams! Get the most out of your sales team by empowering them through our virtual, self-paced sales skills development programme. This online course is ideal for sales teams either working remotely or from a variety of locations – ideal for Covid-era and beyond. Standardise your organisations sales approach with techniques that can be quickly implemented across the business. New sales skills will help both drive your business forward and motivate staff.
ESI offers the definitive, digital solution to upskill your sales team.