Why We Must Drop The Word “Sales” From All Business Dialogue

Why We Must Drop The Word “Sales” From All Business Dialogue

In this opinion piece, Graham Hawkins, co-founder of on-demand sales platform SalesTribe, argues The act of ‘selling’ is quickly becoming a thing of the past as we move from ‘Always Be Closing’ to ‘Always Be Helping.’ So, Lets drop the word ‘sales’ completely from the entire business lexicon.

I have always been a big believer in what Henry Ford was quoted to have said all those years ago: “nothing happens until someone ‘sells’ something.”

However, whether I like it or not, the word ‘sales’ has always had some negative connotations – arguably even more so now as we enter ‘The Age of the Customer.’ The very word ‘sales’ implies “the action of selling something,” and that means pushing, pitching, persuading and in some cases (dare I say it) manipulating buyers.

Ever since the days of the snake-oil salesman and the peddler, buyers have been ‘on-guard’ when it comes to dealing with anyone that is trying to ‘sell’ them something. We all feel varying degrees of “discomfort” when taking advice from someone that has a vested interest in ‘selling’ us down a particular path. Right?

So let’s be real. No one likes to be sold to, and today’s buyers will no longer accept the ‘interruptive-push’ or ‘hard sell’ tactics that we sales folk have been trained to utilise in the past. As my new LinkedIn friend Bob Mosby commented recently: “buyers no longer want a pushy carpetbagger putting jedi-mojo-mind tricks on them to make a buying decision. The new methodology of creating a buying atmosphere instead of a sales environment is picking up steam, and here to stay.” I couldn’t agree more with Bob – the act of “selling” is quickly becoming a thing of the past as we move from “Always Be Closing’ to ‘Always Be Helping,’ remembering that a “sale” is just the result of helping a customer solve a problem – it’s what happens to you while you are immersed in serving your customer. So, here’s a suggestion:

Lets drop the word “sales” completely from the entire business lexicon!

Think about it. The word ‘sales’ is no longer congruent (if it ever was) with being customer-centric.

Every single buyer on the planet knows that territory manager, account executive, business development manager are all synonyms for the same thing – “sales.” And every single buyer on the planet also knows that all of the people that perform these above-mentioned roles carry a quota and get paid a commission and this is what fundamentally underpins the disconnect that still occurs to this day.

As Derek Wyszynski has successfully argued recently, there has always been an “embedded conflict” in paying a sales person a commission because this centuries old practice often runs counter to putting the interests of the customer first.

So, why not simply call all sales people (and the many derivations) – Customer Journey Managers? Or Client Engagement Managers? Sure, a change in job title is only a superficial thing, and it does nothing to address the underlying conflict. But it’s not a bad place to start to demonstrate to your customers that you are serious about putting their needs ahead of yours. I honestly believe that we will all eventually wake up and transform many other aspects of the traditional sales execution models (including getting rid of commissions) but for now, let’s make a start by simply ceasing to refer to those of us in customer facing (or quota carrying) roles as “sales people.”

Some savvy vendors are already moving down this path and changing the titles of ‘sales’ people to better reflect the new customer-led age. There are now more and more of the following:

  • Client Engagement Executive
  • Customer Experience Specialist
  • Customer Success Manager
  • Buying Journey Engineer
  • Solution Engineer

These are just some of the more popular examples of the new age titles now being applied to customer facing roles. I recently stumbled across a vendor whom employs: Customer Pleasure Managers. Now that’s novel.

As buyers, we all prefer to deal with a specialist in their field (not a sales person) that can help us solve our problems. Thus, wouldn’t it make sense to give the sales person a title that is at least commensurate with their problem solving remit – rather than their revenue generating remit? My new marketing automation adviser Jack Doran from HubSpot carries the title of “Inbound Marketing Specialist.” No surprise to anyone, but this is exactly the title of the person that I want to be engaging with as a prospective buyer of marketing automation technologies.

The ancillary benefit of removing “sales” from the business lexicon is that it will also provide a great trigger point for some much needed cultural change in many vendor organisations. Sadly, too many businesses are still only paying lip service to being ‘customer-centric,’ and in my humble opinion, the biggest obstacle to genuine customer centricity is pushy and increasingly desperate ‘sales’ people. Can any of us afford to risk really bad customer experiences in today’s global, digital, connected economies?

The job titles that we typically give “sales” people are so “20th century.” In fact, some of them are actually “19th century.” Time for an update?




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