Selling has never been regarded as a profession – at least it’s never been thought of as a profession in the same way as architects, doctors or engineers are seen as professions. It is associated with the Avon lady, the Fuller Brush Company or Willy Loman. We fear the sales person believing that they are going to persuade us to do something that we wouldn’t otherwise have done.
And yet, according to current employment statistics, 1 in 10 of us are directly employed in selling. We would argue that this is a gross underestimate. Every time you pitch an idea to your boss, you ask your partner to accompany you on a visit they are not keen on making, or you try to get the kids to tidy their bedroom, you are selling. Okay, you are not asking for money in return for goods or services but you are attempting to persuade someone of the merits of your idea. We are all in the business of selling.
Selling is as important today as it ever has been and yet it has a lower profile. The unsung heroes of selling in business to business markets are the Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) who daily connect with customers and potential customers, advising them on stock availability, the best product for the job, and taking orders. They are the Cinderellas who don’t go to the ball. At the ball are the sales representatives who in many business to business markets are male, over 50 years of age, and highly knowledgeable about their products and markets. However, set in their ways, they call on the companies they have always visited, they talk sport and they seldom come back with an order. No longer do they “sell the product”.
Selling used to be described as the spearhead of marketing. Today the sales process has become much more complicated. The website, the technical service team, the receptionist, and the truck delivery person have become important components in the sales process. Whereas our sales people used to be highly trained by a visit to the Tack Training school, today our multifarious sales teams are left to fiddle it out themselves. Selling still is, or should be, the spearhead of marketing, especially in business to business markets. It just needs to be reinvented.