Sales: The Least Taught Profession in the World

November 20, 2014 by QBS Research, Inc.  


As I was preparing to work with a new client–one of the many who has recently adopted The Challenger Sale concepts–I spotted an article in last week’s Sunday paper called “Building a Better Teacher.” Since one of the main tenants of The Challenger Sale is to Teach, Tailor, and Take Control, I read it with interest. There was one passage in particular that got my attention. The passage simply read:

“The natural born teacher has proven to be a myth. Those studies looking for the personality traits of a great teacher don’t pan out. Researchers have found that the most effective teachers can be extraverts–or they can just as easily be introverts. Some are humorous, but others are serious. Some are as flexible as rubber, and others are as rigid as a ruler. It’s not personality that makes a teacher great, but a specialized body of knowledge that must be learned–and that often goes against what comes naturally.”

From my perspective, that same conclusion can be applied to sales. There are very few naturally born salespeople. Success in selling is a function of having the skills necessary to cause prospects to “want to” engage with you, as opposed to the countless other sales callers, coupled with the ability to earn credibility, convey value, create a sense of urgency, qualify, secure commitments, etc. Other than attending a few seminars and whatever experiences you’ve had, how are people who are given the responsibility of producing revenue supposed to learn how to sell?

If we dig deeper, we quickly discover that sales is the least taught profession in the world. To become a practicing attorney, for example, you must first pass the Bar exam. To become a licensed pharmacist, you must pass the boards in the state in which you wish to practice. Accountants, doctors, architects, and professional engineers all must pass some kind of competency test in order to call themselves a professional. Even kindergarten teachers must complete their master’s degree within ten years to continue in their jobs.

What do you have to do to become a sales professional? The answer is: print business cards. In the state where I live (Georgia), you have to have a license to catch a fish or own a dog, but you can sell nuclear parts without any sales training whatsoever. Something about that doesn’t seem right.SarahHoorayCropped

And just this past May, when our oldest daughter graduated from the University of South Carolina, as we sat in the stands waiting for her name to be called, it occurred to me that all of those kids wearing caps and gowns (or their parents) have invested $100K+ to get an education and presumably a head start into their chosen careers, yet the very first thing they will have to do right out of school is to sell–themselves. And the kicker is, after 17 years of formal education (13 years of regular school, and then 4 years of college), most of these graduates haven’t been taught the first thing about how to sell, even though sales is the fuel thing drives revenue in every company. Furthermore, one’s ability to communicate effectively will not only affect their ability to land that first job, it will likely determine their success in life. Hmmm.

There are so many sales training courses out there that it has become VERY unclear as to which option will provide the best fit, especially given all the conflicting information floating around the marketplace.

While some of the more well known courses like Solution Selling, Strategic Selling, Value Selling, SPIN Selling, Target Account Selling, and Power-Base Selling focus on defining the sales process, sellers are left to their own devices to figure out “how” to execute the various objectives that have been defined. This creates a series of questions like:

–       How do you penetrate new opportunities given decision makers are more standoffish toward vendors than ever before?

–       How can you differentiate yourself and your products when everyone is using the same industry buzzwords?

–       How can you create a sense of urgency so that internal champions are able to secure approval?

–       How can you leverage an initial success to get deeper, wider, and more strategic within your current accounts?

–       How can “I” increase my R.O.I.S.E (Return on Invested Sales Effort)?

For some unexplainable reason, sellers are expected to know the answers to these and other questions that deal with execution and productivity. Really? Wouldn’t it make more sense to teach best practices so that your entire sales team can take a giant leap forward as opposed to slowly ramping up via trial and error? Ironically, this thought was the genesis of QBS.

In two days or less, we can give sellers an unfair advantage in their respective markets just by teaching them superior strategy using specific sales techniques. And even though some of these techniques “go against what comes naturally,” if a salesperson tries something new and different and it works over and over, it will become natural to them very quickly.

Now the question is, what are we waiting for? When sales managers call me and we go back and forth looking at the calendar to figure out when they want to schedule their training, I ask, “Rather than worry about logistics, can I ask, when would you like to see a significant boost your sales team’s production?”   The most common answer is…yesterday.

Does any of this sound familiar? Let me know how we can help.

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