The real job of sales

I'm sure many of you, like me, meet lots of salespeople new to the field. I love talking to them — they have so much energy and all the newest toys. They're busy memorizing facts about products and services, learning how to manage time and territories, pondering the mysteries of Salesforce, discovering what customers do, etc.

Sometimes though, the actual selling at the heart of their job seems to be lost in all of those activities.

When I sense this to be the case I find a way of asking about their approach to selling to a single prospect. Some folks pull-up their sales process diagram and begin describing what they do at each step. Some of these diagrams are just four Powerpoint arrows butting against each other while others had to have required AutoCAD.

Somewhere along the way I'll point out that selling is influencing or guiding a prospect to make a decision to buy from them instead of using different resource, or of doing nothing. And then I'll ask how they do that. They usually go back to the diagram.

What I'd love to hear them say is that it's their job to establish and maintain a closing focused dialog with a prospect. A dialog being a meaningful and respectful discussion of goals, needs, and options. And that every conversation with a qualified prospect should either initiate a new sale, tangibly advance a sale toward a close, close a sale, or else bring a sale to a respectful conclusion.

Last week, out of the blue, I received a call from a very successful technical salesperson, Matt Smith, that I'd hired twenty years ago. After catching up, Matt thanked me for seeing his potential while he was in graduate school. What Matt didn't know was that I'd stalked him at conferences for a couple of years before he earned his PhD — the stalking had been pretty easy as the guy was a bodybuilder and is now an MMA fighter.

Between Matt's brainpower and physical size, he could dominate any conversation with a prospect. But what convinced me to hire Matt over many far more experienced candidates was his innate understanding of sales as providing a valuable service as respectful and attentive guides, though ones driven by very clear goals.

As we meet new salespeople coming into our field, let's be encouraging, while also helping them succeed by keeping their focus on the real job of sales!