The Only Requirement For Selling

I recall interviewing some potential sales people who would tell me, “I’m really good with people.” “I like people.” “People like me.” or “I like a job being with people.” I would then ask them, “How many sales calls do you think you’ll make in a day?” and their answer would be, “Oh, maybe 8.” And how long do you think you’ll get with a customer? “Oh – probably 20 minutes.” In some businesses you really only get two minutes with a customer and 8 calls may be showing up to see 8 customers and only actually seeing 4, since many customers get busy or give us 1 of a million other excuses not to see a salesperson. Giving it the benefit of the doubt, 8 calls for 20 minutes is 2 hours and 40 minutes. So what else is going on during a 10 hour day? Er….ah…. eating, driving a car, getting lost, listening to music and changing radio stations, planning, leaving messages with people who wish you weren’t calling again, preparing, writing, reading updates and research, and packing materials. All of these activities are done by yourself with nobody else around.

Sales is a solo act. And BTW all that “I like people” stuff is not as important when it comes to driving results and creating urgency to act. Don’t get me started on the overnight requirements in selling. Living off of coffee, beer, too hot or too cold hotel rooms and road food – yummy! No, the only real requirement in selling is dealing with rejection. You won’t be with other people as much as you think and when you are with people they can be temperamental, mad, and abusive. And their insults are not of your ideas or suggestion, they are about you!

Sales jobs are tough – and not just from planning, delivering, and resulting efforts. It’s the toll that rejection takes on you personally. Rejection – not rejection of an idea, suggestion, or product benefit, but personal rejection – from customers saying to you, the salesperson, “You are an idiot!” is incredibly difficult to handle. Sometimes they say ‘idiot’ to your face, and often through their body language, sarcastic tones or snide comments. Wow, what a shame. And sadly, for many customers who can’t yell at their boss, spouse, kids, or colleagues, they take out the frustrations of life on the salesperson from another company.

All careers that deal with customers have amazing stories of rudeness, idiocy, and harassment from normally well-adjusted, nice people. But for some reason we think it’s ok to disregard our polite nature and go straight to hurtful when dealing with a salesperson. We are almost given permission by society to rail on an unsuspecting salesperson, since salespeople are loathsome, greedy liars! So it’s ok to yell at them, in fact it’s nearly required and expected behavior in the interest of getting a better deal for me and my company. According to research by Greenberg MS (2010) Psychology of Crowds – “behavior is heavily influenced by the loss of personal responsibility of the individual with the impression of broader societal behavior norms”. So, it becomes acceptable to lay it on the salesperson, calling them, not the policy or the company, the actual salesperson – evil.

What a horrible caste we place on people in a profession of service and partnership to achieve benefits and satisfy needs. Daniel Pink reports in To Sell is Human that the number of people in the actual selling occupation is the total number of all U.S. federal and state employees times 3! We all sell. Parents sell children on the value of spinach and getting along with others. Teachers sell students on the value of homework. Physicians sell patients, and lawyers sell juries. So, we all sell, but the salesperson sees our worst behaviors. Often salespeople are scolded for saying things, that were actually never said.  Salespeople are directly ridiculed, embarrassed, maligned, vilified, and outright abused!

Who doesn’t love rejection. Salespeople, just like prize fighters, surfers, stand-up comics, and mountain climbers are adrenalin junkies. They lose a lot more often than they win. They love the debate; it’s a puzzle to be figured out. And when it works and accounts are happy, problems are solved, and commerce moves forward, it’s special, rewarding and worth all the aggravation.

Yes, salespeople have a lot of freedom. They need it as recovery time to recoup, dust themselves off, and be ready for the next sales opportunity.


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