The sales function in any organization is often shrouded in awe, mystery and frequently derision. If you were to take a snap poll of start-up CEOs and ask them which function in their organization was most frustrating to manage it would most likely be Sales. Sales is also for as long as my memory serves me been the area which is difficult to predict and while many technology entrepreneurs try and understand the process using their engineers logic, sales teams generally consider this a futile exercise – evidence of a non-sales persons lack of understanding of how sales works.
I’ve put this question to multiple people and roughly divide the replies into two categories – the guys who feel sales is a science and those who feel sales is an art. The guys who feel sales is a science point to logical processes such as the buying cycle, process tree, etc. while those who feel its an art form refer to superhuman achievements of the sales stars and their ability to go into any account and sell them anything no matter how illogical. I’ve tried to study this and come out with my own view and surprisingly its neither.
Sales in my opinion is a sport and the sales guy is akin to a sportsperson. Being a good sales guy is something in my opinion that the majority of the above average IQ population can aspire to, becoming a great sales person is a combination of genetics, personality and of course training.
Why do I say this? Fundamentally in my opinion sales resembles a sport. The most important thing to do to learn how to sell is very similar to what anyone needs to do to play a sport reasonably well. We all have heard our coaches tell us this secret repeatedly.
I’m a firm believer that any above average person can become a good sales person by just practice. The
Being a Sales Star requires going to the next level. It takes five important ingredients - I will first focus on four – focus, hard work(lots more practice), temperament and a thorough understanding of science. Why do I say this? Many of us have had the opportunity during our growing years to see some of our peers attempt to move from the amateur sportsperson to become pros. The first thing you notice is how their vocabulary changes. While during their amateur days its more gingoistic (I’m the best!! Noone can beat me !!) the lingo as soon as they start training with a professional coach becomes science – the food they eat, the muscles they try to build up and their practice moves from maybe running a few times before sports day to training every day for at least a few hours. Transitioning from a sales person to a sales star is similarly a difficult and concentrated effort on the part of the best and brightest to move to the next level. As part of this, they realize that:-
- They must practice - an order of magnitude above the rest.
- They must understand the science of sales. This means yes, they have to understand prospecting, lead generation, sales funnels, the buying process, human psychology, etc.
- Temperament – Sales ultimately is keeping your cool, staying focused for the long haul, and not letting your competition break you. This is something the best salespeople cultivate over the years
- They must be fully prepared with thorough knowledge of the customer as well as their own product offering similar to how the star athlete must know his limits or risk injury.
As such, these are some of the reasons why I call it the Sport of Sales. However, there is one more key ingredient.
When you look at any star athlete speaking post-winning, while thanking his parents and siblings, you’ll always notice one person he will thank. While the cameras always focus on the star tennis player or basketball star they will frequently also show this other person. Yes. The Coach or Mentor.
Without a selfless coach, no salesperson can become a sales star and sales star under a coach who they don’t respect show performances that are dismal, to say the least. And the coach is the reason why I again say that Sales is a sport.
The Coach in the corporate setting is either the CEO or the VP-Sales. They’ve got to be the coach and bring out the best in the sales team. Being there to pump them up, give them the knowledge on what to eat, what to read, how to meditate, what the sales process will look like, and ensuring that the best players play and the remaining get dropped.
Sorry btw for the misleading title ;-)