As a preface, my friend, Hank Barnes, wrote me saying he and several others are declaring October 12 as “World B2B Pet Peeve Day.” He asked me to contribute a post commemorating this occasion.
I struggled a moment. Regular readers know that I write a lot about “pet peeves.” Whether it’s bad prospecting, bad Social Channel interactions, bad selling, weak sales management, ineffective training, and so forth. I’ve written so much on where we are underperforming our potential as sales professionals, or undeserving out customers.
I thought for a while, then realized something that has been bothering me for some time, I’m not sure how well I can articulate it. But it seems we, sales professionals, have lost the “Joy Of Selling.”
In reflecting on my start in sales, it was so exciting. I had a single very large account, my job was to prospect within that account, finding new opportunities to sell and grow our relationship. It was both challenging and huge fun. I’d wander around the account, trying to understand what people were doing and where I might be able to help. It was huge fun bringing people new ideas and developing the business as a result of that. It was part “detective work,” trying to find the opportunities and drilling down into the issues. And it was partly like solving a puzzle without really knowing if you had all the pieces or even what the picture was.
It was thrilling to find meet people throughout the account, inciting them to change, and working with them to solve their problems. While I was driven by achieving my own goals (actually I was driven to exceed them), and the recognition of getting the order and earning commissions was important, the real joy was helping people change, grow, and succeed.
As I grew in my sales career, moving into leadership positions, the same themes kept coming up, in some roles, where I led organizations to pilot new applications and solutions, driving change in the markets was a real thrill. Getting to see lots of customers intrigued by doing something new or different was exciting. Working with my teams, talking to customers about how they could succeed in implementing new technologies was exciting. It was such an adrenaline rush to see more an more customers get value out of our solutions, helping us grow and dominate our markets. Even the losses were fascinating, we’d look at what we might of change, how we could have improved our performance, how we could grow even further.
Later in my career, as I moved to higher levels, the joy continued to come from helping our people in challenging customer situations. But it also became one of leading the team in figuring out how we could perform at much higher levels–raising our performance, creating new opportunities within our organization, out performing our competition, growing our relationship with customers, and growing our overall market presence.
All of these brought great joy to me and most of the professionals I worked with. It was such a great adventure trying to figure things out, experimenting with new approaches and strategies. The detective work, the puzzle solving made the was such a challenge. I couldn’t think of anything more fun than working with customers and the organizations I let in doing new and innovative things.
And that fun/joy continues with the work I do every day with our clients.
Sadly, I don’t see many “sellers” reveling in this fun or challenge, these days. Selling has become a “job,” almost a tedious chore for too many.
Sometimes, when someone talks about a win, their response is, “For about $1M–and that will help me achieve my quota…” But they don’t really understand or care about why the customer is buying.
The adventure of discovery, the detective work in uncovering what’s happening, the challenge of putting together a jigsaw puzzle when you aren’t clear about the picture–it’s seldom that I hear conversations or “war stories” about these.
For too many, selling has become a rather mechanistic task. We follow the script, execute the playbook, pass the customer from one specialist to the other. Too often, we make our numbers not by figuring out how to do better, instead, just mindlessly doing more.
Concepts like curiosity, critical thinking, problem solving, collaborative conversations seldom are raised in conversations with sales people. (Hank would add intellectual curiosity and perspective taking). Rethinking selling, continuous improvement, figuring out the new value creation sales interventions in light of the customer preference for digital buying journeys. The closest we come is talking about replacing F2F with virtual calls and revel in the reduction in travel–not whether we are engaging customer more impactfully.
It seems too many approach selling as a job, not an adventure the creates great joy in us, value for our customers and the ability to make a difference.
So, I guess that’s my current “pet peeve,” selling could and should be so much more. We seem to be settling for too little.
Afterword: Many of you know my perverse humor. When Hank asked me to write about my “pet peeve,” my response was, “My pet peeve is never knowing someone who has a pet named “Peeve.” As timing would have it, I’ve adopted a rescue cat. I was trying to name her and have settled on “Peeve.” So next time someone asks, “What’s your pet peeve,” my response will be “A delightful little cat!” (Sorry–but I warned you about my humor 😉
Here’s a picture of “Peeve,” if you are curious.