I listened to a report on NPR’s Marketplace program that might prompt you to rethink how you’re recruiting salespeople.
According to the report, sales is a hot, hot, hot career field right now. It’s especially hot in the fast-growing tech sector, where hiring salespeople is a top priority — almost on par with hiring the tech wizards who create the products, and just about as difficult.
Does that surprise you?
After all, it’s easy to see why software developers, app designers, server wizards and the like are in such demand. It takes years of education at top-notch universities, not to mention a certain type of intelligence, to make all those zeroes and ones do what you want them to do. Digital geniuses are in short supply.
It turns out that good tech-sales candidates are too. One reason, the report says, is that many young college grads shy away from sales careers, unsettled by the prospect of having so much of their compensation tied to results. In the long run, of course, results determine everyone’s paycheck — if that cool new app lays an egg, the company tanks and those highly paid developers are out of work. But sales is not a field that attracts risk-averse people.
An even bigger challenge, it seems, is how sales is perceived, especially among bright tech-savvy college students. They don’t want to be in a job that requires them to be “pushy.” And according to the report, that’s the word that comes to mind when students think about salespeople.
That stereotype, of course, has nothing to do with the actual business of sales, unless you’re still going door to door selling vacuum cleaners or encyclopedias. In our Selling Essentials training program, for example, we cite tons of research showing that pushiness is one of the least effective ways to get a sale. When buyers feel pushed, they push back. Salespeople are much more likely to be successful by acknowledging — to themselves and to customers — that the buyer is in control.
The salesperson’s job isn’t to strong-arm an unwilling buyer into coughing up cash. It’s to help buyers arrive at a good decision — one that serves the interests of buyer and seller. In the tech sector, the proposition is the same: Buyers deserve great technology, companies deserve to get paid for providing it, and salespeople make that exchange possible. Their number-one job is to offer good value at a fair price — just like a killer app or a $10,000 watch.
There’s an important role in all of this for those of us involved in recruiting and training salespeople. We need to take every opportunity to dispel the Willy Loman/Glengarry Glen Ross view of the profession, especially among younger folks who are still deciding where they want their career to take them. We need to kill those stereotypes and replace them with a more realistic perspective on sales.
Which is why, when people who know nothing about sales inform me that salespeople are pushy, I reply: “Only the unsuccessful ones.”
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