Was at the Sunday Business Post sales conference this week. Watched a very interesting discussion on the need for sales being seen as a profession.
A show of hands was asked for, how many people have sales qualifications at primary level. The room was full of sales people. 99% did not show hands (for the number crunchers; 2 people showed their hand).
On panel member argued it is all about personality and experience. Other argued that a professional standard will lift the ability to sell.
There was a comment made about sales people not being part of founder teams in start ups. That is one of my favourite hobby horses and got me thinking.
Boat without the paddle
When I managed the innovation centre of one of the universities In Ireland, I argued that all courses in entrepreneurship should include modules in selling. The academics thought that was a really good idea, came back after year (they have different time lines in the academic world) and had concluded after careful consideration that selling has no academic merit. Talking about giving kids a boat without a peddle
We know from our conversations with owner managers that selling is a lost art. Cold calling, managing sales pipelines, writing good proposals, closing. You know, the classic sales skills that every self-respecting sales professional takes as given.
On Smallbusinesscan we have a very interesting treat on selling versus marketing. My foot is firmly in the camp of sales people (and I regard myself as a marketeer). Had a conversation with a CEO of a big company about marketing loosing its credibility. Social media is finding them out and marketing is not delivering the results.
Word of mouth
Selling is word of mouth with a facilitator, social media is word of mouth on steroids. Sales will become more and more important. Marketing less so. If you need convincing I suggest you talk to my friend Camilus O’Brien who is CEO of BITS in Ireland.
BITS is a model that is entirely focussed on financial results by bringing everything back to sales and sales margin. So much so, that their campaigns have a level of predictability before it start. Most marketers don’t belief that is possible. Which is the issue. CFOs are very interested. So are sales people as they understand traffic, conversion, turnover and financial results better than marketers
The issue with over enthusiastic sales people is that extreme transparency that social media creates can do untold damage to brand (marketing as the sales police?). Ethics will play an increasingly important role in the sales process.
That is one of the reason I think there is a need for a professional qualification and standards. There is need for sales education! Every start up course, every management development course should spend 30% of the time on training sales. Particularly if you know that sales is the new fund raising, the new cash flow (the old profit).
Now here is the challenge; if you would make selling part of our business drivers license (and I think we should), how would that look. Any volunteers?
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