Let’s face it. There are very few of us that want to be in sales.

We just want to put our heads down and get good at what we do, be discovered for being good at what we do, let our reputation do the talking, watch the sales roll in, grow our business and make money. 

Why not? That’s pretty much the Australian way.

(This blog is a little longer than normal, but stay with us because it’s incredibly important.)

Sales: An uncomfortable process for most

Most of us don’t want to be out having conversations with people we don’t know well in the hope we may chance the opportunity to sell to them.

Most of us don’t enjoy awkward networking situations where we’re trying to get to know people and stretch beyond our relational capabilities. It feels uncomfortable and we know we’re trying to sell something.

Additionally, few people can expertly ride the waves of uncertainty and the difficulties that come with the sales process. From negotiating terms to understanding the people we’re selling to, uncovering their objections, dealing with their frank and forthright opinions, positioning ourselves above our competitors, and handling authoritarian, pompous, picky decision makers (!), the process is riddled with anxiety for most of us. 

There are some lovely decision makers, though. Can we just sell to them?!

In Australia, the majority of people don’t want to admit in a social setting that they’re in sales. Downunder, it just does not fit very well with our psyche.

What about when the shoe is on the other foot? 

Ironically and importantly, when we’re the buyer, everything changes for many of us. We become in touch and confident. We want to negotiate a good deal and transact with someone who can skilfully navigate our personality. 

We want to be treated with respect (even if we don’t know what we’re talking about!) and we want a salesperson who’ll challenge our thinking, for our benefit – but only if they do it in a nice way… 

The salesperson must know what they’re talking about, shouldn’t be blowing smoke up our proverbial and can’t be full of it! We want them to handle the process appropriately and be appropriate. 

We want all that (and more) and hold salespeople to very high standards. If they don’t meet them and don’t keep their promises, it’s often the end of world (even if it’s not necessarily their fault).

Getting out of our own way

As a result of the high standards we hold salespeople to, we treat them with the same kind of disdain we possess for the thing we don’t want to do ourselves – sales. 

It’s a type of oxymoron and it’s what gets in the road of being able to grow our businesses and intelligently invest in the sales side of our organisations.

We know all about the stereotypes of salespeople and we’re clear about what we don’t want. If someone shows even the slightest indication they fit into a stereotype, we’re full of criticisms, such as “they don’t do their paperwork, they can’t close a deal, they talk too much.”

However, do we really stop and think about what makes a great salesperson? Not usually, because too few Australians spend enough time in sales to know how hard it is and understand the skill level required to be good at it over time.

A major avoidance issue

A great many Australian business owners and managers do whatever they can to avoid sales. 

Worse, many embrace and jump on all the marketing techniques known to man in the hope of avoiding sales, otherwise known as a heinous dirty deed, done dirt cheap!

Avoiding the avoidance isn’t a solution; we must look squarely at the issue to tackle it in a smart, logical way.

Key observations + insights

Once, when working to improve the conversion rate of a B2B call centre team, the manager revealed he thought of the centre as a sausage factory. He criticised his workers, though he had no sales experience. He believed it couldn’t be that hard, and that his company had pretty much done everything for the sales team. Surely, he said, all they had to do was have a simple conversation to close a deal. 

This type of psyche is common in Australia and can contribute to the sales process failing. While it’s often sparked by bad personal experiences, it’s a negative starting point that doesn’t give the team much of a chance. 

Your sales team is representing your business and needs to know your business’ thinking and strategies. So, they must be fully equipped with the right resources and thinking.

As a manager, it’s crucial to ask: “Are my own attitudes holding this business back?”

Businesspeople don’t like that it’s going to take longer than they think to land a deal.

Likewise, they don’t want to hear that sales can be competitive and slow. Often, they block this out and pile pressure on salespeople. They also don’t think this stress-causing approach is an issue, even though – usually – the team isn’t properly resourced.

Not understanding sales means the wrong people are often put into sales roles. An average salesperson is going to do a pretty good job of selling themselves during an interview, so it’s critical to look past that. 

Managers must think about their customers and the competitive environment they’re in before deciding who they want to sell for them, and then they must support these people.

Salespeople are not marketers. Marketing is a separate skill requiring a different brain type so, if you’re getting your salesperson to do this, you’re asking them to perform a function they don’t generally know how to do and aren’t good at.

Salespeople are good at people, relationships, reading between the lines – and doing the things most managers don’t want to do.

Throw away your stereotypes and think fresh. B2B SMEs are usually selling to bigger companies and, more often than not, the person not in a sales role is the one who’s good at it. Usually client facing, they know the product/service well, are problem solvers and are good with customers. 

Often because they’re not “doing sales”, they come without the sales baggage. Migrating them into the role is a delicate process, however, and needs to be carefully managed.

Wrapping it up

Typically, Australian companies don’t give their sales teams enough help to go into the market and be successful. They frequently need to invest more in good education, systems, processes and knowledge.

If a business is doing all this and sales are lacking, there’s a chance its people have become overly reliant on the systems – and are neglecting to get out and about and meet new potential customers regularly enough.

From our perspective, there’s much to be done to help more companies see the sales profession as meaningful and understand what good sales looks like. Those who do this are rewarded with an effective sales function that helps then grow with more ease. 

Now, who doesn’t want that?

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