Globally, even with rapidly changing technology replacing many jobs, the one profession that is still growing is sales. Paradoxically, the salesperson isn’t.
Most salespeople fall on the wayside and many grow into inefficiency. This is the tragedy of the sales profession. A worrying number of experienced salespeople aren’t. Their ten years experience is in fact one years experience ten times. Their experience is a matter of duration not merit. They are experienced in their inexperience. This tragedy is aggravated by the fact that the last decade has fundamentally shifted the sales landscape. Technology is rapidly shifting what was for a long time a one way street into a dual carriageway. Buyer’s access to information and options is rapidly growing beyond the average salesperson.
What is the source of this tragedy? First, is its very foundation-the environment that shapes our formative years. Education, society and upbringing prepare us for formal employment-a desk job. As such, the baseline for growth in employment is from zero because a footing (our background) exists, plus the organization structure supports it. On the other hand, how many teachers, role models or parents do you suppose tell their mentees to study hard and be salespeople? Close to nil. Many therefore, are not born salespeople but have it thrust upon them-small wonder then that only a handful achieve greatness in it. Selling, on the other hand, starts from below zero, and reaching zero is a feat in itself. To successfully reach the zero base line, sellers must first unlearn what they learned for close to two decades and in an environment that treats them as outcasts- “Kageche went into sales, while we are trying to get him a job…” Lacking the requisite support structures (a competent sales manager, for instance), it’s a losing battle for many.
Secondly, is the nature of selling. Unlike the desk job where work comes to you, selling requires that we are always looking for work. To thrive, the search must remain never ending. It’s the very lifeline of the role. That’s half the challenge; the other half is remaining afloat in the floods from the battering El-Nino rains of internal pressure for numbers, and external rejection by buyers. Rejection is painful. Rejection in itself torpedoes many sales boats. They rapidly sink and the captain jumps ship. Sometimes the captain stays on board because he is seasoned in steering clear off the waters with nuclear powered torpedoes, which is where game-changing growth comes. He thus remains “experienced” in his comfort zone. Naturally, growth is stunted.
Another reason why many salespeople grow into inefficiency is the very salesperson’s attitude. Having grown a year past base line, he wallows in the miasma of the progressive pats on the back he has been receiving. He looks around at the novices struggling to get to zero and feels that he has arrived. He stops learning, developing and growing. He gets sloppy-he inadvertently breaks his prospecting pattern, he wings his presentations and gets too casual with buyers. For a moment it works; the momentum he has built in the past year carries him forward-soon though, he realizes he has been decelerating. What was once a steady gush is reduced to spurts. This becomes his new normal. It is especially difficult to get out of this predicament if the salesperson lacks a selfish drive to keep him going; not merely achieving targets for the sake of it (which incidentally is unsustainable as a motivation tool) but a burning desire for, say, recognition, or, to help others, or get a degree or keep up with the Joneses or,… whatever.
Interestingly, even those with desk jobs, in time, find it necessary to acquire sales skills for their side hustles. Globally, even with rapidly changing technology replacing many jobs, the one profession that is still growing is sales. Paradoxically, the salesperson isn’t. To arrest this anomaly is a joint effort which pools together foremost the salesperson’s attitude and enabling support structures.
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