Dan Pink, Author of To Sell is Human, has been getting a lot of well-deserved exposure. He wrote a terrific book and most who have read it, really like it. I don't have a problem with his book because read in its entirety, it makes sense. I do have an issue with the people who write about his book and take the concept, that everyone can sell, out of context. The context is that everyone can sell their ideas. Agreed. But out of context, it is suggested that everyone can be a salesperson. I strongly disagree.
Forget for a moment all of the data from Objective Management Group showing that 74% of all professional salespeople suck. When we take the concept from selling an idea (at home, at church, in the neighborhood or internally to coworkers) to professional selling, 10 things change:
- There is money on the table and 53% of salespeople are uncomfortable having a conversation about money and another 33% think that just $500 is a lot of money. The money conversation adds a level of pressure that does not exist when one simply has an idea to sell.
- There is commission at stake and that adds a level of pressure and emotion that causes many salespeople to let their opportunity get derailed. The 47% of salespeople who desperately need to be liked, choose the tactic or strategy that preserves a friendship, rather than the one that gets the business, simply because they are afraid of doing anything to jeopardize their commission.
- There is a performance requirement at stake and just like in number 2 above, the pressure and emotion of performing, meeting quota and/or expectations, causes salespeople to approach opportunities with a "make sure you don't lose" mentality instead of "make sure you win."
- Recovering from rejection is an ongoing challenge for 72% of salespeople. However, if they are simply selling an idea - one idea - and it gets rejected, they don't have to get back on the horse.
- Some salespeople have conditional commitment - they'll do what it takes as long as it's comfortable for them. That isn't enough in sales - especially since 2008! But if you're selling an idea, with nothing at stake, doing what's comfortable is acceptable.
- Pressure and Emotion are in 3 of my first 5 and 52% of salespeople become too emotional to remain objective. More importantly, salespeople can't listen when they are emotional and if they can't listen, they can't ask questions and without questions they can't be effective.
- Alternatives may exist when selling an idea internally, but in professional sales there will be competition and its existence creates a variable that causes many salespeople to do a very poor job of differentiating themselves. Internally, a better idea wins the day. When selling professionally, the best solution, product or service may be overshadowed by a better price, more memorable salesperson, better quality or service, delivery issues, history with a company, size of a company, capabilities or a relationship.
- Speaking of relationships, internally you are a known entity - no relationships to establish, no trust to be built, no credibility to be earned, no expertise to be demonstrated, no question as to one's knowledge of the organization. Selling professionally requires that all of those criteria be established.
- The internal sale will never require a cold-call to get the discussion rolling. Today salespeople may need to make 10-20 attempts to get their cold-call answered or returned and then they must quickly break the ice, get the prospect engaged, and have a memorable 5-minute conversation to get a meeting scheduled.
- Dan Pink recommends hiring ambiverts. Here are my reasons why that strategy may not be the answer when hiring salespeople.