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Is Sales Getting Soft?

by David Brock on May 3rd, 2010

Many regular readers may be a little surprised about this post.  I’ve been very vocal about sales being consultative, customer focused, and creating value for the customer in their buying process.  I’ve been (and continue) to be very much against the old line “hard sell” tactics.

Having said all that, over the past few months, there has been too much discussion that leads me to believe that we may be getting so oblique in the way we describe what we do.  First, there’s the name sensitivity.  It’s hard to find anyone with the title “Sales Person” on their business card.  We do anything but call ourselves sales people—we’re trusted advisers, partners, relationship managers, even facilitators.  We don’t want to be pushy, we want to be consultative, may even at times provocative.

We don’t want customers to think we are just out for their money—but aren’t we really?  Don’t we want to get their orders, get their money so we can book revenue for our companies, making them grow and thrive?  As individuals, we are goal driven–and most sales people I work with are measured by some form of orders, sales, revenues.

When it gets down to it, as a sales professional, I’m only going to invest my time and energy into prospects where I see a reasonable likelihood they will be spending money on me!  I’m not going to waste my time on those that don’t want to spend money or those that are very unlikely to spend it on me.

But is being focused on achieving revenue and our goals inconsistent with being consultative, creating value in every meeting with the customer, or helping them solve their business problems?  I really don’t think it is.  If we weren’t focusing on opportunities where prospects/customers have a compelling business issue they want to address, and if they weren’t interested in talking about how we could solve their problems, we’d just be wasting their time. 

I see the sales professional’s focus on generating revenue for her company as being perfectly aligned in working with customers to demonstrate how our solutions can solve their problems and helping them to achieve their goals.

“Selling” has earned much of the negative connotation that we see through old line, hard sell tactics.  But by using different words — eliminating the noun–salesperson, or the verb–selling from the work we do with our customers could be misleading as well.  To dance around the fact that we want them to spend money on us hides our real objectives.

I’m a sales professional, I expect the successful outcome of engaging with a customer or prospect will result in an order and money being spent—hopefully on me.  I’ll do the best job I can at selling, I work with customers who I expect to do the best job they can at buying.  And we will be absolutely aligned.

Am I missing something?

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  1. Dave,

    I’d love to flush all the semantic debates off the agenda. We’re sales professionals. Let’s get over it. Our role is to facilitate achievement of our customers’ objectives. Blow away the smoke and all customers have one or more of the following 3 objectives:

    1) Make more money
    2) Save more money
    3) Make more money and save more money

    As an old mentor of mine always said, “I don’t care what SIC code your customer’s in. They’re all in the money making busines.”


  2. Hi David,

    Over the years I have noticed that more and more people don’t want to call themselves sales people. In fact, in some of my workshops, I’ve even had debates with people who think the title ‘sales’ turns of prospects. Seriously!

    Prospects and clients know that the objective of a sales person is to sell something. The key, as you stated, is to align ourselves with prospects who are willing to buy.


    • I’m amazed by this. We know why we are calling on them, our customers/prospects know, yet we feel compelled to hide it and dance around the issue. If we were more direct, focused on alignment, and stopped wasting time where we aren’t aligned, things would be much better.

      I always enjoy your comments Kelley. Thanks for joining the discussion. Regards, Dave

  3. David Olson permalink

    David, I am a recent but devoted follower and enjoy your perspective and thoughts. This is my first comment but I am compelled because this is such a huge problem. I suspect that our customers drive this as much as we do – they don’t want to be “sold”. Yet there is no way to achieve the goals of a “making money business” without also buying things. How can anyone possibly make a good buying decision without the help of a professional seller?

    The truth is that I don’t like to be sold either BUT I truly love it when a professional seller helps me buy wisely and profitably.

    Thanks for the discussion (s)


    • David, sorry it took be so long to respond. I appreciate your comment. Business is all about making money by providing products and services people value. It is always strange that we don’t like to confront it head on. As you state, people don’t want to be sold, but they do value a sales professional that facilitates their buying process.

      Keep visiting and commenting! Regards, Dave

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