The Non Development Of Sales Professionalism Is Still With Us

Why has selling changed so little over the last 20 years? When compared to other functions it still looks pretty similar to the 80s and in some organisations even further back than that, where as in Finance, Logistics, HR, Production etc you will see something very different.

The most striking thing about today’s’ selling is how amateur its approach still is. This is revealed in several significant ways:

  • The Sales Directors board report. Many still have no real robust forecasting model, a last minute ring round of sales managers who have been cajoling their sales teams for ‘the latest numbers’ is as good as it gets for many meetings. There is little programmed activity around pipeline analysis, scenario modelling or market tracking.
  • Improper use of CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Often it’s used simply as a recording mechanism to track what salespeople are doing rather than an integrated part of the value proposition.
  • The lack of effective performance management. With many sales organisations the ends still justify the means. If the salesperson delivers reasonable numbers – job done. Where is effective expectation management, a robust consequence model (covering good, bad and indifferent outcomes) and rich feedback mechanisms?
  • Target setting is still seen as a war of attrition between the sales person and the sales manager, with very little authentic dialogue. It’s very common to see management almost desperate to find commitment in their teams when in reality they are lucky if they have even achieved compliance. It’s still common to find salespeople with an emotional investment in proving to their management why their numbers are not going to be achieved rather than the opposite.
  • The lack of professionalism around sales recruiting and on-boarding. ‘I can pick ‘em, let’s give her/him a go’ is still a sentiment heard in sales functions. Little use of competencies, structured interview techniques, assessment centres or psychometric support.

We’re not suggesting all these faults exist in the same sales organisation, but in many at least one of these amateur approaches is still seen as the norm.