A mentor recently reminded me that the word “sales” is not always perceived well when used in a conversation. It is unfortunate but true because some “sales people” have ruined the reputation of all of us through non-standard practices that are remembered and shared with others. Even those companies and employees that I coach have trouble being called “sales people” even though what they do does have an impact on company revenues. Maybe that is why most businesses do not even print the word “sales” on business cards.
The primary duties of anyone in the business development field is to create opportunties for their company by finding a need in the marketplace and filling that need the products or services that their company offers. How do you do that without being “sales’ like? I would offer that the activities that you do have an impact on how you are perceived and that some of the best sales people I have know have never been described to me as “sales people”.
What do these people do differently that leads to increased opportunities for their companies?
- Perform strategic business reviews with current clients that helps them understand how you have added value to their business and what other services you offer
- Conduct lunch-n-learn sessions for account managers in other companies that can refer you to opportunities in their client base.
- Schedule breakfast and lunch meetings with centers of influence that are secondary stakeholders in targeted companies you want to work with.
- Focus your free time and champion a non-profit by volunteering your services to help with their fund development.
- Ask current clients for referrals.
- Introduce your clients to prospects, strategic partners, and other service providers that help them grow and improve their business.
- Make sure all of your family and friends know what you do.
Working any of these tactics into your activity calendar will help you increase your opportunities without the traditional sales tactics that are taught in videos and highlighted in the movies.
Salespeople spend most of their time on non-revenue producing activities. Really?
A recent study found that salespeople spend more than 70% of their time doing things other than selling. Our research found that salespeople spend, at most, 30% of their time in face-to-face selling. The rest of the time is spent handling administrative tasks, making collections calls, resolving logistics issues, attending meetings, and filling out reports.
How can we call these folks “salespeople” anymore when less than half of their time is spent selling? Maybe we should call them “support account administrators who occasionally sell.” Who is at fault–salespeople or management? Finger pointing does not really accomplish much other than scapegoating the blame.
It confounds me when salespeople tell me that they cannot make more face-to-face calls. Why not? Do buyers perceive little value in the meeting? Do managers require salespeople to yield to administrative distractions? Is traffic that bad?
I grew up in a sales culture where we were required to make eight face-to-face sales calls per day. If we were in the office between 8 AM and 5 PM, our bosses assumed we were goofing off, and we probably were. Sales managers scrutinized our phone credit card statements to make sure we did not spend the day doing phone work versus face-to-face selling. We did paperwork at night or on Saturday morning. If it sounds a bit Draconian, it was not. We were salespeople after all, not office people. I learned a work ethic that helped me start and run a successful business, and I am eternally grateful for the lesson. Maybe it is time for some old-school selling rules again.