Sales. Sales rep. Salesman.
We’ve all heard these terms, sometimes uttered with a slightly contemptuous tone. Sales can be a dirty word for Canadians, often evoking the image of a seedy used car salesman lying to an unwitting customer to get a problem-laden vehicle off the lot. To attract people to the profession, many companies have removed the word completely from sales titles, referring to the sales role as “business development representative” or “account manager.”
But sales are the lifeblood of all companies. They are the top line of an income statement. The yardstick by which any company is measured. Without sales, there is no business, no income, no profit. Without sales, there are no jobs.
Yet, even with the ability to point directly to its impact on a company’s financial statement, sales are rarely taught in any formal educational environment. Anyone looking at the curriculum of major business schools in Canada and around the world might think that sales are not a crucial function of an organization. Most MBA programs relegate sales coaching to a single course in sales management or embed sales with marketing. But marketing is not sales.
So, what is “sales”? It is listening. It’s the ability to understand, sense and react to the concerns and needs of others. In many ways, sales can be defined as empathy, being able to see things through the eyes of others. It is the epitome of people skills, of emotional intelligence. It is intimately knowing your customer, their specific needs, and understanding they are driven by two key motivators: pain and gain. Solve their problem, or give them the benefit they are seeking, and they will buy from you. Selling is connecting the value a company can deliver to those customers’ needs and wants.