We have a blind spot about sales that, if left unchecked, will damage our ability to serve our clients and thrive. With a small shift of perspective, we can eliminate this blind spot and set up our companies for lasting success.
Our Blind Spot
Our blind spot is our unease with sales. Most of us have some visceral, negative reaction to the word sales, to being sold to, and even to those who practice the profession. Not only do people outside of sales have this reaction, people in sales have it, too, even as they try to work around it in others. Rooted in at least some degree of distaste and distrust, this reaction leads us to insulate ourselves from salespeople, sales tools, and the sales process. Our adverse reaction comes from our desire to avoid being taken advantage of, to encountering “sliminess” or inauthenticity, and to speaking about money.
Most people in our companies feel this unease, and consequently we can see the signs of this throughout our organizations. People in sales and the rest of the company often misunderstand each other, miscommunicate, and poorly coordinate their work. The behaviours may be passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive. They are distracting or destructive, regardless. The major symptoms include:
- Poor customer experience and loyalty. Clients experience a difference between the way they’ve been sold and the way they are treated after the sale. They see us as “dropping the ball” and being hard to work with.
- Difficulty differentiating, price wars, and revenue challenges. Salespeople get out of step with our mission and core value to the clients. They misunderstand, undervalue, or undersell what we do best for clients. This leads to them competing more on price. Because of the operational gaps between sales and the rest of the organization, follow-on sales opportunities are difficult.
- Poor relationships with and service from our Vendors. Since we distrust sales, we are guarded with the vendors who would sell to us. As with all distrust (see The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey), this guardedness demands more effort to protect ourselves. This leads to extra costs and delays in vetting, contracting with, tracking, and replacing vendors. Without enough trust, vendors will be much less likely to go the extra mile for us. And, over time, we’ll end up with the vendors who can’t get a better gig elsewhere.
- Broken communications and collaboration. From the root of our unease with sales sprouts a similar problem: unease with influencing each other, even apart from the sales team. Influence, sales, and leadership are actually the same thing. Distancing ourselves from sales, we avoid the very tools and approaches that would let us all succeed better together: thinking win-win, listening, empathy, reframing, problem solving, etc.
What To Do
None of us are intentionally creating this situation; it is an age-old problem. Some of us have already taken steps to fix things. Our job as leaders is to continue to eliminate this blind spot whether in us or in our teams. We start by shifting from distrusting to embracing sales. Here is a high-level plan to get you there.
- Lead by example. Demonstrate the value of and how to build trusting relationships and win-win results at work.
- Become a sales master. Leaders who understand how people go from being strangers to ideal clients, and then to enduring partners can see and help repair breakdowns in the behaviours and systems that hurt client success and our success.
- Build a trustworthy sales team. Though we must build our trust of the sales team, the sales team needs to be trustworthy. The old-school sales techniques of the past created this problem in the first place. There’s no room for them in our organizations today. Hire trustworthy and capable sales leaders and salespeople. Have a sales process and supporting systems that build trust and momentum with clients and with the rest of the company. Train and coach salespeople in the mission, values, and operations of the whole company.
- Teach. Train and coach everyone in win-win sales, leadership, and influence tools and processes.
- Keep improving. Markets and the people who drive them change all the time. To have win-win results and trusted relationships, we must give regular attention to how we do it. Build into the rhythm of your company the ability to constantly improve the behaviours, processes, and systems used in leadership, sales, and collaboration.
In your corner,
Strategic Partner – Sales