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“Selling Is Helping,” What A Load Of Crap!

by David Brock on May 29th, 2017

Mike Kunkle has posed an interesting question about the trend to describe “Selling Is Helping,” on LinkedIn.  You really need to read the discussion.

I get hugely bored with much of the discussion about selling is helping.  The concept is fine–with some revisions, but the main challenge in this concept is in execution.

So I get everything off my chest, this movement is parallel to the movement to not call sales people “sales people.”  There are dozens to hundreds of titles people use to distance their sales people from the “stigma” of being in sales.

Pile onto this the companies proudly declaring, “We don’t have sale people…..”  Yet when you go research their companies, they have lots of people with purely sales backgrounds and lots of people who are accountable for working with customers to generate revenue.

Yes, sales and selling leaves bad tastes in the mouths of customers.  When I speak to customer groups, I generally start with the joke

“What do you call 600 sales people at the bottom of the ocean?   …..  A good start?”

It always generates laughter and applause.

But it’s us, sellers and sales people who have created this!  We have no one to blame but ourselves.

Selling has always been about “helping!”

But how we sell and our behaviors are anything but helpful!  Chanting mantras, changing what we call ourselves won’t change a thing until we change our behaviors!

Until we genuinely put the customer at the center of everything we do, rather than putting ourselves, our goals/commissions, our companies at the center of what we do, we will never eliminate the “stigma” regardless what we call ourselves or how we describe what we do.

Let’s be clear, we are not in a charitable business–even of the company we work for is a not for profit.  We are in the business of generating revenue helping our companies grow.

But the only way we do this is through our customers.  If we our customers aren’t achieving their goals leveraging out solutions, then we are creating costs/problems for them.

We need to be viciously focused on how we apply our “helpfulness.”  We can’t help everyone.  We have to know:  1.  What are the problems we are the best in the world at solving?  2.  Who has those problems?  3  Who has those problems now?  These are the only people who want and will appreciate our help.  For companies outside this “sweet spot,” we are wasting their time and our time—we are not being helpful.

Yet too many organizations and sales people don’t pay attention to this.  They call anyone they can.  They don’t do the research to say, “This company has problems we solve, this person/persona owns those problems.”

Noticed I focused on the problems we solve and the customers that have them (Yes, you can reframe this to opportunities).  It’s these the customer cares about — it’s finding the solution to their problem or addressing an opportunity.

Yet even when we call the right people, we talk to them about the wrong things–we don’t talk to them about their problems and what they want to achieve.  We pitch them our products.  Customer don’t care about our products.  They aren’t going to take the time to figure out, “Is this product the best solution to my problem?”  It’s our job to do that for them.

In complex B2B, customers struggle with buying, we provide great value in helping customer learn how to buy and facilitating their buying processes.

There are all sorts of other things we do to “help” customers.

The point is, at it’s core, sales has always been about helping.  It is through these actions that we achieve our goals.

But we haven’t been very helpful—our customers tell us this and the data is horrifying.  They don’t want to see sales people, they don’t see sales people as helpful, we don’t understand their businesses, we don’t understand their problems, we don’t listen to them.  We care about our products, our commissions/goals.

Changing what we label ourselves is meaningless if we don’t change our behaviors, what we do, why we do it, and how we do it.

Customer see through this so our mantras and title changes become meaningless or worse.

I’m sick of the sales apologists.  We should be proud of the professional execution of our jobs.  We should be true to what selling is–finding customers with the problems we solve and helping them solve them.  We should not tolerate mediocrity or those who aren’t committed to what professional selling is about.

And we must stop playing word games.  It’s an insult to great sales professionals and to the intelligence of our customers.



From → Performance

  1. Wow, sometimes we express what we had felt strongly about, for a long time.

    I have it with ‘closers’ and ‘”trusted” advisors’, I guess I just ignored the ‘helpers’ and I told the Business Development managers, that once they were on target they could change their title to ‘Salesperson’.

    But… I go further than the ‘problem’ Solver, although Much Selling happens there!

    Innovating, moving beyond where we are, new frontiers, is also a key role of Salespeople. 40 years ago when we introduced ATM’s, the “Cash Machine”, it didn’t solve a problem. It was an innovation that MADE money, literally!

    30,000 ATM’s in the UK generated 100,000 Job losses for Bank Tellers, THAT’s a problem! Right now, 2017, is the cusp of a Revolution in manufacturing/logistics and consumption.

    Much is SELLING INNOVATION, to a very scared market, which is waking-up to the consequences.

    Sales need to do much more than help, innovate, solve, implement, Professional Selling means Engagement.

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