By Brian McKay
In an MBA class, the professor asked, “Who here is planning to go into sales?” No one raised their hand, to which he remarked, “That is a shame because you are always selling whether you know it or not.”
That moment has stuck with me as the art of selling is continually evaluated. Not a single MBA student in that class was considering a career in sales as they felt they were preparing themselves to run things, not sell them. Sales often evokes a negative reaction in many and becomes mentally relegated to the domain of those that are pushy, over promise and can’t find a career doing anything else. Because of such preconceived notions, sales positions and departments are often denied the respect they are due.
Few things are more important in this world than an effective sales person. An effective sales person generates revenue, builds relationships and is the face of your company. It takes psychology, product knowledge, communication skills, flexibility, empathy, persistence and extensive relationship building to be an effective sales person. Often the hours are long and the work never ends, as a sales person is constantly building relationships that might prove to be beneficial. The operations people and finance specialists probably get to go home and let the day go. A sales person doesn’t.
Essentially, it is a difficult job that requires expertise in multiple disciplines and is responsible for driving revenue in your company. No matter how wonderful your product or service, it is going nowhere without effective sales people and an effective sales department.
So it is time to dump the preconceived notions that many carry about sales people. It can be a great and challenging career to go into and the most essential part of an organization.
As I would encourage budding professionals to seriously consider sales, I would also strongly encourage companies to bring in the best and keep them happy. Many large firms have treated their sales people as disposable in the past, often tightening goals to squeeze more and more out of them. They have forgotten the value of the relationships developed by these professionals to their business. A revolving door in the sales department involves lowering standards and violating the trust of your customer base. Imagine your revenues floating out into the open every time that door opens.
Rewards can be lofty for your sales team, but should never reach the point of impossibility. When the proverbial carrot hangs from a stick so long that the donkey pulling the cart can’t see it, he’ll have no motivation to walk forward. A true sales person goes into the job expecting to work hard and be rewarded for their efforts. Make sure they are rewarded and incentivized to build a career and keep working hard for you. Let’s put the emphasis on the “for you”.
The days of the archetypical used car salesman are long past. The car salespeople I know realize the importance of service and relationship building. They are very successful at what they do and set a standard that can be followed across any industry.
The new consumer, whether a business or individual, expects a higher level of service, stronger product knowledge and the compliment of a long term relationship. The longer you have a successful sales person on board, the better your company is reflected in the eyes of your customers and the more effective she becomes in sales of your product or service.
Encourage development within your sales team. Expose them regularly to the operations and inner workings of the company. An effective career sales person knows how everything connects inside the firm. Continuing education with changes in the competitive environment is a must. Recalibrating the company’s sales team for product changes and changes among the competition’s offerings is a essential.
Authenticity has been a big topic with zenruption and nowhere is this more important than with the sales department. Remember, these are the employees that have to see everything and anything less than brutally honest is a disservice to them that they will recognize immediately.
A good sales person is an accomplished and extremely valuable individual. They have been developed over time and are true experts in your company. Treat your sales department with nothing but the highest regard and strive to keep your best people for the entirety of their careers. A company that zenrupts realizes the true importance of their sales department in developing the new markets that eventually allow them to eclipse the big boys.
As for those of you looking at a business career, give sales some thought. It is a challenging and rewarding career that truly contributes to your employer. It can be one of the highest paid positions in the company. You would be hard pressed to find something more crucial to making the world go around than sales.
Hopefully I just sold you.
zenrupt your sales
Brian McKay is a co-founder of zenruption and has his MBA from Boise State University. It took him forever to get the point that we are always selling. Some of the most effective sales people he knows just happen to be bartenders.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license