Salespeople are the point of contact between a business and its customers. The crucial role they play is certainly worth celebrating, but we should also ask how we can help them celebrate sales success more often
On this National Salesperson Day, 14 December 2018, Skynamo wants to give more than a shout out to the salesmen and saleswomen who represent their companies out in the field. We want to acknowledge the crucial role salespeople play in the life of any business. In doing so, we also want to address some common obstacles salespeople encounter in the field.
What we’re asking today is, why is it important to celebrate salespeople and how can we help them celebrate sales success more often?
“Nothing happens until someone sells something.”
You might have the greatest idea or tell the best story, produce the most advanced products or have the best solutions to problems. Until someone ‘buys’ it, nothing has happened.
Well, OK, things did happen. Very important, very necessary things did happen. But what makes an idea great is when it is recognised as useful and valuable. When it is validated.
But what about brilliant ideas which aren’t validated? What about classic examples like Colonel Sanders’s ‘secret recipe’ that was rejected 1,009 times before it eventually resulted in the world’s second largest restaurant chain, KFC?
These examples simply reinforce the idea ascribed to Peter Drucker that, “nothing happens until someone sells something.” The secret recipe remained a secret until someone ‘bought’ it.
What does it mean to ‘sell something’?
On a basic level it means exchanging things for money. But it first requires someone to be sold on an idea. A potential buyer needs to conclude that something is of value to them before they pay money in exchange for that thing. “Selling is about translating products and services into benefits to customers,” says Louis D’Ambrosio, former sales leader at IBM.
And yet, unless you’re selling ice-cream on a hot day, this is still only partly true.
Whenever long-term risks and benefits and careful decision-making are involved, people do not simply buy products or services they need right there and then. They seek to invest in real relationships with real people. They look for people who can continually add value to their business.
Selling something does not merely involve handing over something you have in exchange for something you want. It is not simply a transaction, but an offer to partner with someone and find innovative solutions that might improve their lives or grow their business.
Something needs to happen before someone sells something
A salesperson is the point of contact where ideas, products and services meet the needs and perceptions of current and potential customers. It is in the salesperson that people engage with brand communications and product offers in human form.
It is often in them that an idea or product stands or falls. People trust people before they trust things. People prefer working with people they trust before they work with anyone simply because they offer a good product.
As Christoff Sonnekus, sales manager at Triangle Lubricants, so aptly reminds, “Customers buy the sales rep first, before they buy the product or brand represented by that salesperson.”
It is because salespeople operate in this decision-making space that they are so often perceived in a negative light. They engage people where they are most vulnerable: in the uncomfortable position of having to doubt the way things are, feeling forced to choose a way forward, and being expected to act in a way that may involve change.
This is not a position anyone one of us likes to be in, let alone with someone you don’t trust and who doesn’t seem to show a real concern for your situation and needs.
Trust is necessary before someone sells something.
Bridging the trust gap
Recent research of ours concluded that a trust gap between salespeople and their customers is indeed central among the obstacles reps face in the field. People have preconceived ideas about field sales reps and tend to view them with suspicion, while reps are often sent into the field without sufficient resources at their disposal to act as trustworthy consultants.
Additionally, we find that companies that adopt the right field sales technology are experiencing first-hand that the trust gap between their reps and customers can be bridged. Technology designed with the sales field in mind makes it easier for salespeople to gather and have access to high quality data along with all the functionality they need to serve customers well.
Skynamo’s mobile sales app prioritises the role of sales people, freeing managers to coach their reps more regularly, while empowering reps to act as consultants in the field.
Let’s think more seriously about the value of salespeople to our businesses and about how we can help them bridge the field sales trust gap.