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Don't Mourn the Salesperson Yet

I read a recent article in the Economist titled "The Art of Selling: The Death of the Salesman Has Been Greatly Exaggerated." Speaking as a salesperson for many years, a sales leader for 15 years and a sales management consultant for the past 14 years, this article went right to the point of what many of us write already know.

Quick example: Recently, I purchased an iPhone from AT&T. The AT&T retail facility had great service. They welcomed me to the store, shared friendly conversation, helped me save money on my existing account, and the salesperson even walked me to the door on each of my two visits. AT&T even responded to my e-mails. Overall, a well-organized retail customer approach.

Just yesterday, I walked into an AT&T store in NYC to purchase a carrying case for my new iPhone and received the same solid attitude and sales process -- complete with a walk to the door! This impression was of how a strong sales focus impacts a transaction.

Sales is built on trust and confidence. In some minor products, this can be accomplished by smart marketing. However, professional salespeople do drive emotions if properly hired, trained and managed, and they should be the profit center of any organization.

One point that the Economist article misses is why some companies have failed and why others have grown. Sales-focused organizations have penetrated their existing customer base at higher levels and added net new clients at higher rates through a well-crafted salesperson or sales process map. However, it is my belief that it is critical for organizations' sales leadership team to be focused on success -- by building a belief in their mission within the sales team, and by creating a sales training system that reinforces sales strategies, sales process and prospect buying emotions.

I have often written about the need for sales leadership to set the tone for the culture of the organization, as well as the level of expectation. Sales and sales management are the critical success factors to lead us out of the negative economic conditions that exist today. Bottom line: To make salespeople and their impact relevant, sales leadership must take a proactive approach -- not only with their organization's executives to drive the need for salespeople, but in the day-to-day management of their team's ability to execute.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on November 07, 2011