|Have You Hugged Your Salesman Today?
A Column of personal opinion by John Rinaldi, Founder and Owner of Real Time Automation.
A while back I had dinner with my cousin and her son. He’s a nice guy. Twenty-two. A freshly minted graduate of our advanced education system. History, no less.
History just happens to be one of my favorite subjects, but it isn’t one of the more sought-after degree programs. History majors hunt down employers like big game. If they corner one, they ask for a job by prostrating themselves in front of them like a priest taking vows of charity, obedience and chastity.
With relatives, the less said is always better, but I couldn’t help myself, so I offered unsolicited advice. I mentioned the difficulty “some” history majors have finding jobs and suggested a sales career. I should have know better. Unsolicited advice always gets you a kick in the pants, and this was no different.
He reacted like I had just suggested he become the elephant prep man at the circus. For those of you that didn’t investigate a career in the circus after graduation, it’s the man responsible for manually clearing the elephant’s bowels before a show. I’ll let you imagine how they accomplish that. So with that elephant prep man look on my cousin’s son’s face, he replies that he wouldn’t consider it, as he doesn’t want to “lie to people.”
Knowing that I had less hope of penetrating his four years of ignorance than I would have throwing his 295 lbs. into the lake, I quickly changed the subject. But the incident really bothered me.
Why are salespeople held in such disrespect?
I’m an engineer who has come late to the sales game. Despite my late start, I’ve tried to master it as best I can, knowing that it’s a profession and that professions are never mastered. But as I’ve learned about sales over the years, I’ve cataloged the ways that salespeople are commonly maligned or simply misunderstood.
· The first myth is that selling is about manipulation, deception and deceit. That’s generally not true. Most salespeople firmly believe in the benefits their product offers the customer.
· The second is that sales is all fun and games. The truth is that customers beat them up and slap them around most days of the week. It’s a tough job that many of us don’t have the resilience to do.
· Then there’s the fantasy engineers love, the “Field of Dreams” fantasy: if you build it, they will come. Truth is, if you build it, they won’t come. Your product is nothing but a worthless pile of silicon until somebody sells it
· Next is the myth that all salespeople are selfish and dishonest. Look at it this way: If you’re selling a fire alarm to a family with four children that doesn’t have one, you should use all the energy and persuasive skill you can muster to get that sold and installed tonight. In fact, it’s disrespectful to not try your best to sell it.
· Then there’s the idea that “Sales is easy. Anyone can do it.” The truth is that it takes really hard work to make sales look easy. And it’s probably harder than doing what you do. Salespeople must master persuasion, listening, questioning, body language and a lot more. It’s harder than learning C or Java code (I’ve done both.)
The young history major understood none of this at the time. So what happened to him? Well, he did find a middle management job, and I’m willing to bet he resents the pay and benefits of the sales staff. I doubt that he respects the tough job they have. But hopefully you do, and, later today, you’ll give a salesperson that hug that they so richly deserve.