Monday, March 4, 2013

Sales Is Full Of Myths

Sales is full of myths, primarily because it has never been considered worthy of being treated as a science. It has evolved empirically by oral tradition and by pop-experts who typically lack rigorous academic training.

These self-proclaimed gurus do however excel at self-promotion and can out BS the other wannabe gurus. They spew out an endless stream of book-of-the-month paperbacks and articles in magazines more-concerned with filling white space than with reality. Worse, virtually ever book written on the subject is a plagiarized rehash of other books - sheep endlessly walking in circles, nose to ass, the view never changing.

Here then are my top 10 myths with counterbalancing realities:

1. Positive Attitude: A positive attitude is required to be successful.

This is the ultimate example of how bullshit, repeated often enough, comes to be accepted as fact, indeed gospel, without any critical examination or research to back up the claim. Simple proof - does it take a positive attitude to ride a bicycle, play a piano, drive a car, or any number of other learned tasks? Why should learning to sell be any different?

2. ABC - Always Be Closing: Close early, close often, close hard and you will conquer all. Should a surgeon Always Be Operating? Even when the patent's tests are negative? Closing a prospect before you find out if you can help the prospect makes you a thief, not a professional sales rep. What's worse, you will come across as self-serving and untrustworthy and will lose many sales for each "conquest" and never know it.

3. Wing It: Sales is an art form best learned as you go along by practice.

Would you go to a doctor that skipped medical school and wings-it, for a life-threatening emergency? Fly in a plane with a "pilot" that has no training or license? Me neither. If sales is not a profession, it's because the participants don't consider it one. Nor do they act like they belong to one. The low-life stereotype the public has of sales reps is what we collectively deserve.

4. Experience Counts: Experienced reps usually outsell beginners.

Reps that follow the best methodology and work hard make the deals. You can have 20 years so-called
"experience" which in reality is 20 years doing the wrong thing, or what worked for you 20 years ago but is now sadly obsolete.

5. Likable & Nice: Prospects must like you or they won't buy from you.

This one is easy. Do you like everybody you do business with? With the checkout cashier at the market? The mechanic who fixes your car? Buying decisions are made considering many factors - price, features, quality, guarantee - with "liking the sales rep" so far down the list as to be meaningless. Schmoozers say they are successful because they like everybody and are liked in return. What they don't say, and rarely realize, is that they could have been way more successful with expert methodology and save the warm fuzziness for their dog.

6. Extroverted: You must be a dynamic, outgoing, loud, back-slapping, life of the party type.

Introvert or extrovert - I've seen great reps and terrible from both sides. Where's the data to substantiate the myth?

7. Customer Is Always Right: Never argue with a customer just give them what they want.

Who knows more about your product and applications, you or the customer? If it's not you then you are incompetent and should be fired. A professional should advise customers toward their own best self-interest even at the risk of upsetting the customer.

8. Make More Calls: The rep that makes the most calls makes the most sales. Call Volume is only half

the equation. Close ratio is the other half. If you can't make deals happen then hundreds of calls a day is a waste of time.

9. Closers Make More Sales: It's obvious that the best closer always makes the most sales.

Close ratio is only half the equation. Call Volume is the other half. If you don't make the calls you have nothing to close.

10. Interlopers: Got laid off? Need more money? Can't find a real job? Try sales, it's easy!

Can you imagine if the U.S. Army allowed any dimwit off the street to stroll in, pick out a rifle, and go fight the war because he is bored and unemployed? Or pick up a knife and do brain surgery? And yet here we are in sales where any Bozo is allowed in. Good news is it's a revolving door and it spins fast.

Special Bonus Myth - No Extra Charge

11. The Best Rep Should Be Manager: If you don't promote her she will quit. If it's not the best rep the team won't respect her.

There is little correlation between being the "best rep" which can result from many factors including work hours, closing ability, lack of conscience, and everybody else on the team being idiot incompetents. Absent any purposeful, systematically developed, psychologically engineered sales process, the best rep is inevitably the one most naturally charismatic.

This is the one thing that can't be taught and the source of the rep's success. Although she will  swear it was "hard work" or "positive attitude" or countless other factors that can be neatly packaged as slogans, that would seem to credit that success to her efforts instead of her given unearned attributes (which can also include good looks, intelligence, and so on).

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