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Why Do Sales People Have Such A Bad Reputation?

by David Brock on January 16th, 2009
It’s Friday evening, I’m cruising some of the blogs and other forums as I wind up the day. I saw a question posed on the Sales Best Practices board in LinkedIn.

The question concerned the Reputation of Sales, asking about why do we see such bad stereotypes of sales people — lazy, unprofessional, etc. It went on to ask why people don’t like sales people.

For those of you that are regular readers, you probably know that was all that was needed to set me back on my soapbox. Here’s my response:

“I’ve been a proud sales professional for all my career — though often my title doesn’t say that. At the same time, I am not proud with the lack of professional practice in our profession.

I’m not talking about the hucksters, peddlers and bottom feeders. Unfortunately, they will always exist, but I don’t think our profession is judged by them.

I think too often we do it ourselves through sloppy undisciplined practice.

I talk to 1000’s of sales people a year, one of their common complaints is: It’s impossible to get appointments and to talk to people, no one will see us.

When you think about the reasons for that, it’s easy to see why we can’t get appointments: We waste the time of the people we want to see! We don’t create value in every interchange we have with the customer. No wonder they don’t want to talk to us.

Think about it. How many times have you heard people talking abut a “Howdy Call?” These are a pure waste of everyone’s time.

What about the calls, where all the sales person does is tries to pitch the latest new product? The only question they asked was “How are you?” (And they didn’t wait for the answer–they went into their pitch).

What about the sales person who is unprepared? Too many of us are smart-fast, that’s part of what makes us good, but shooting from the lip does not make up for the lack of preparation.

We interview customers, they complain: Sales people don’t understand my business, priorities or problems. No wonder, we are too busy talking and not asking questions.

The reputation of sales people can be changed if all of us start doing one thing. Customers will open their doors and answer their phones if we start doing one thing.

We must create value in every interchange with our customers! If we don’t, we are wasting their time.

In planning for a meeting, if we cannot identify the value we will create, then we are not ready for the meeting and must cancel it.

The concept is so simple, why don’t we execute it?”

Well I’m off my soapbox, why do you think we have such a bad reputation, what can we do about it?

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  1. davesteinsblog permalink


    I’ve been writing and speaking about this subject for years. Glad you raised it.

    You wrote “We must create value in every interchange with our customers! If we don’t, we are wasting their time.”

    I look at it in a parallel way. I’ve always guided sales people toward becoming business people. Same concept–value. Business people like to deal with other business people, not sales people for all the reasons you mentioned.

  2. Dave Brock's Blog permalink

    Dave, thanks for your comment. I couldn’t agree more, as sales professionals move to business managers, they should be having different, more meaningful conversations with customers. This creates more value — actually both for the customer and the sales person.

    Your comment gives me the excuse to broaden the discussion. The concept of “creating value in every interaction,” is something that should be applied in every business (perhaps non-business) situations.

    Think of the complaints I know you hear and I hear all the time about wasted meaningless internal meetings, email overload (mostly reply alls that are meaningless), and the list goes on.

    Imagine the difference that can be made in individual and overall organizational productivity if each of us paused for a moments to consider: Does this really create value? If it doesn’t, refine it until it does.

    Dave, thanks very much for taking the time to comment! You gave me opportunity to both add my vote to your concept of moving sales people to becoming business people and to expand on the concept of “Creating Value In Every Interchange.”

  3. Anonymous permalink

    Hi Dave. Thanks for all this. Where exactly can I find that original discussion on LinkedIn?


  4. Dave Brock's Blog permalink

    Sorry, wish I could point you to the LinkedIn discussion, it is now quite a while ago. You might try searching the answers.

  5. Col Virendra Kumar permalink

    I am really impressed with the topic and the wonderful discussion.I am very new in the marketing but one point I am very convinced about is , marketing requires maximum discipline , hardwork and dedication. If you have these, it becomes easy , otherwise it is a pain , thatswhy they call it ‘ marketing temperament’.A marketer who does not have value for his own/customers time ,his efforts wont succeed or at least returns wont be at par with the inputs. Must have customers interest in your mind, then only you will add value to his returns, it will ensure that customer understands you better and gives proper respect. Marketer does not mean begger,ensure you add value to customers effort and you will be respected.

  6. Solid post as usual Dave. I like you have been doing this forever.
    Creating value is HUge but we have to know whom weare talking to. Have we actually done the research, dug deep before we make the call, do we know who their customers are, who their suppliers are, what is happening within the target company and a whole lot more. Are we opening ourselves up as reall people who blled red bllod like they do, do we make ourselves vulnerable ……Do we understand what value we can bring and not look like an idiot…
    Anyway I am rambling once again ( it’s an old age thing)
    Thanks Dave

    • Norman-it’s not rambling. You are hitting on critical issues in establishing the relationship and trust which underlies any sales situation. Thanks as always for you great comments.

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