AN EDUCATIONAL TALK GIVEN BY DRUMMOND’S CEO TO BUSINESS EXECUTIVES
Given how important that heading is, it is rather surprising how little attention is paid by businesses all around the world to ensure their sales personnel are highly trained and are totally competent.
This is not entirely their fault as even during the interview process companies do not ask for sight of proof of the candidate’s sales skills studies simply because university degrees purely on sales do not and never have existed. A subject which I will return to in a moment.
A person entering the sales industry will find it challenging and rewarding with much to learn to become expert on such things as mind skills; people skills; relationship skills; general sales skills; closing skills; self-knowledge; customer knowledge; industry knowledge; competitor knowledge; product knowledge and so on.
Regrettably, they will also find that many if not most people in sales are incompetent, because they are only interested in learning the simple uncomplicated part of sales such as the product details because it’s easy and effortless to just remember facts. Not for them, learning those more complex things such as advantages and benefits, answers to objections, trial closing questions, closing speech habits and other techniques. Nope, that seems to be too much trouble!
Worse, they then develop an appetite to devour everything else there is to know about their product, company and industry; and over time become almost rabid in seeking out more and more facts. Then to show everyone how great they are, they tell and tell and tell, spewing out boring facts all over their clients. Is it any wonder then, that their clients look bored and don’t buy? This is one of the reasons why those eighty percent of incompetent salespeople only bring in twenty percent of the business whilst the other eighty percent of business is brought in by those twenty percent of more competent salespeople.
So how can we change and motivate such inept salespeople to become expert; and how do we bring new salespeople into the industry as competent sellers?
Well there are no simple answers, as sales is a formidably complex subject that takes a lot of study and learning to become competent, but every profession whether it’s law, finance, medicine or whatever, has complexities to be studied and learned.
No-one in their right mind would allow surgeons to pick up their scalpels with an eighty-twenty rule as an acceptable practice. Surgeons must dedicate many years to learning their profession and successfully gain echelons of expertise; even practising on cadavers before operating on live bodies. Whereas, after a cursory product and sales induction programme, that sometimes only lasts a week, new salespeople are let loose on live bodies almost immediately.
Inept salespeople talk at their clients and are known in the industry as Tellers and it’s they, representing most of all the world’s salespeople, who give the sales industry such an unfortunate reputation.
They talk product, are extremely boring and cannot even question their own mind as to why their product was invented in the first place, which is only ever to bring benefits to someone or the community at large. If those order takingTellers were to turn into professional Sellers who are good at creating orders, such a positive conversion would directly benefit them and their employers. This single objective of transforming this inept majority into the minority is so worthwhile it begs the question, what will it take to achieve such a shift?
The answer is not plainly evident. Or is it and worldwide the sales industry doesn’t want to face it; sweeping it and keeping it under the carpet.
You see, most salespeople remain incompetent because they find sales a perplexingly complex subject and too daunting a task to learn properly. Bluntly, it seems to overwhelm them. So much so that they only read about strategies, techniques, speech habits and so on, before mentally retiring from any further advancement. They certainly never really learn, then practice and then use them. A fact that no other profession would allow or condone.
A major part of this dilemma could well be the fact that there are no stand-alone sales courses at colleges or universities, where one can study and attain an industry recognised qualification in Sales. Yes, there are some, but they’re wrapped up within a Marketing and Sales degree and whilst the two subjects are synergistic, in any other terms they’re not compatible.
Marketing is implicit and fundamentally an office-based staff function, crafting the company’s branding, image, positioning and generating the awareness of the company through public relations. Marketing also conducts the likes of targeting, analysis, advertising, research, packaging, pricing and especially for the sales teams… the provision of qualified lead generation. Whereas, selling is explicit and fundamentally a line function with direct contact of clients, travelling, presenting and closing.
In warfare terms, marketing is the big guns at the back softening up the targets and salespeople the fighters in the trenches. That’s why there are not many people who can switch back and forth between sales and marketing and get away with it.
Imagine though, if there did exist a stand-alone degree available in professional sales. The first question that comes to mind is, would any students attend?
Or does the sales industry have such a poor image that student aspirations to become a professional salesperson are roughly… zero.
Yet, professional people in sales find it a challenging and financially rewarding career with untold opportunities to further advancement as they can be recognised and promoted relatively quickly.
Having said all that, how then do people ever get started in sales? Well, many are doing nothing better at the time and stray or gravitate into sales whilst hoping for something better to turn up. Some are given a promotion into sales, some join a sales team on an introduction by a friend, and some see an advert, with a company car on offer, and apply.
My first job in sales was for an overhead crane company based in East Kilbride, near Glasgow. I had just moved from Scotland to London, when I saw an advert in an engineering magazine for a London based technical sales representative and although I had experience of designing overhead cranes it was the company car bit that influenced me to apply.
The business from London had been producing little in the way of orders. It took me some time to learn my craft and I made mistakes along the way, but eventually I learned to ‘create orders’ by doing free surveys for clients who owned the likes of shipyards, scrap metal yards, steelworks and so on. The surveys evidenced and highlighted considerable savings in production times and profits being lost unless they took action. In other words, I found or created problems they didn’t know they had. Of course, the solution was always my product. London soon became the top provider of business for our factory, which then expanded many times, creating further employment for workers, artisans and middle management in the township where the company had its factory and potentially helped to create additional employment in the factories of our external suppliers of heavy plates, welding machines, electronics and other out-sourced materials.
Nonetheless, no matter the reason why they arrive into the sales industry, it’s only once they have been in the job for a fleeting time that new salespeople quite quickly realise they can muddle along with a paltry bit of study or otherwise commit to the learning and application of everything there is to know about the sales profession.
Unfortunately, in most cases it comes down to a personal choice, which sadly bequeaths the sales industry with the endless predicament whereby four out of every five salespeople throughout the millions of salespeople on the planet, actually choose to muddle along; for even the incompetent get a sale now and again when customers want the product sufficiently enough that they will buy it anyway, regardless of the inept person in front of them.
How do these inept salespeople get away with it? Well, surgeons would be exposed very quickly, if they started to lose too many lives one after the other. However, salespeople generally operate alone (pun intended) and in such circumstances, incompetent as they may be, they’re able to continue in the job for quite some time, bringing about the early death of many a sale.
Inept salespeople are therefore patently in need of some kind of spark to establish, create or re-kindle a lasting interest in learning how to become professional at selling. To change this won’t be easy for there are millions of inept salespeople across the planet and any change requires tackling on a more or less individual basis, but let’s look at it this way:
Children at school unable to initially grasp a new subject seemingly too complex for them, lose the will to pay further attention and as their mind starts to wander, due to lack of concentration, they become bored. Sometimes this is down to their teacher being lacklustre in the first place, and or deficient in effective communication skills. In any event it’s important to stop, go back to basics and ensure the fundamentals are comprehensible to the child to give a renewed confidence on which to build their understanding of the subject. Otherwise, if they’re made to continue learning more about a new subject in which they have already lost the plot, they will eventually descend into a state of precognitive failure, having neither the willpower nor the desire to continue.
Similarly, this can be seen in many inept salespeople who are unable to generate enthusiasm and excitement in their client because they themselves are dull, due to a lack of confidence hewn out of their lack of interest in learning their vocation properly. As children we were made to learn and it’s the same in the military, but adults in the sales industry seem to get away with only being interested in learning something if it’s of sufficient interest to them.
When mentoring salespeople, I find it incumbent upon me to appeal to their inner aspirations by ‘selling to them’ why sales is the most praiseworthy profession in the world because without us, few would earn anything.
Business is nothing without sales and it is sales that provides the revenues required to pay the bills and employees’ wages. In turn, the employees spend their money on groceries, leisure, lawyers, accountants, properties, cars, holidays, transport, health and so on, which then provides the profits for those other businesses to pay their bills and their employees and so it goes on, all around the world.
So conceivably, for that vast army of inept salespeople, it’s perhaps a matter of gaining an improved appreciation of being part of a truly important and honourable industry, upon which to build or rebuild their confidence and the necessary understanding of the sales processes by truly knowing the reasoning, desires and inner motivations of themselves; and thereafter their clients.
Forgive the drum beating, but perhaps modern technologies together with Drummond’s ground breaking OMNIMIND sales strategies, will provide a better catalyst for salespeople, who might then be considerably keener to demonstratively learn and apply the true art of professional sales and moreover enjoy the experience.
Pilots do not necessarily need to be design specialists or aeronautical engineers to fly their planes, but it’s mandatory that they know the principals involved. Manifestly, salespeople don’t need to be neuroscientists or psychologists either, but they should know the principals of what makes them and their clients tick, to be able to adjust their communication and negotiation skills to be able to land much more sales.
Competent at adjusting their speed, climb rate, trim and descent rate, pilots are always alert for the unexpected, to be able to take immediate action. Why? Because it is mandatory, that’s why!
Salespeople too, should be adjusting their voice level, keeping the clients involved, listening more than talking, observing body language, being ready with powerful answers to objections, selling the advantages and benefits of their product and being alert to the fact that the customers are always kept in their comfort zones. However, most of all the world’s salespeople just do not do this… and why not? Because it is not mandatory, that’s why not!
Yet, to ignore such principals in an important sales presentation or negotiation is akin to a pilot taking off, knowing a bomb is aboard. Moreover, whilst pilots are prepared to take the blame if a crash was his or her fault, most salespeople have no recognition that it is ever their fault if they lose a deal. And so, with the bomb of incompetence aboard, many a sale is downed before it has a chance to fly. For this and many other reasons it is important, beyond all else, that the incompetent become the competent.
The sad alternative is that they may well remain the monkeys they are, receiving the peanuts they deserve, paid out by the big ape that employs them.