Why do we hate (our own) sales people – Part II

In the four months since I posted the article “Why do we hate (our own) sales people?”, I have been overwhelmed by response of the number of people who have read it, liked it, added their comments to the conversation and shared it with their networks. To each and every one of you: Thank you, I am flattered.

Clearly this topic has touched a nerve. 62% of the over 76,000 people who have viewed this post are sales people so in a way it is not surprising that an article that defends the position that “sales is a hard job” would be embraced by those doing the job. The vast majority of the your comments were positive and in support of my post but a few pointed out that sales justifiably brings criticism on themselves by their actions.

In my twenty-seven year corporate career at IBM and PeopleSoft, I spent exactly half of it in sales or sales leadership roles and the other 50% in delivery or leading professional services organizations. I have lived the pressure of carrying a quota but have equally lived the “hell” of trying the recover a customer from a bad sales deal so I have huge empathy for both sides. The last ten years, I have spent working with CEO’s and senior leaders in early stage & emerging software companies helping them to get the balance right between high growth, generating revenue, selling good business, creating satisfied and loyal customers and building sticky solutions.

As a member of the sales profession, I think sales people do bring some of the disdain they receive onto themselves. This is often unintentional but caused by our actions. We forget that most of us are hyper-driven, “A-type” personalities. We also forget that many others we work with may not be motivated or passionate about the same things that drive us or that they have other priorities in their jobs that do not align with our objectives. Many companies do not do a good job of aligning objectives or priorities within their company which leads to this natural contention and sometimes conflict.

We as sales people have lots of deals on the go, are juggling many balls in the air simultaneously and are under pressure to produce results. Thus, at times, we lack patience for those who get in our way, especially when they are in our own company. Our perspective is that after all, “aren’t we all on the same team?” and “don’t they understand that what I am doing is for the good of the company?” and because of how we share our views, we come across as overly aggressive, arrogant, insensitive or demeaning to others.

One of the best pieces of sales advice that I have ever received is to “Save some of your best selling for inside your own company”. Just because it is obvious to me, the salesperson, as to why the customer needs something, does not mean it is obvious to everyone else. Colleagues need to be sold on the idea. In the past, with family, I have sometimes taken relationships for granted and treated those closest to me in ways I would never treat a stranger just because I assumed they would understand me and why I am doing it. Yet by my actions, I hurt someone closest to me. I believe we often do the same in our work relationships, because we are too busy, trying to move too fast and take others for granted.

If you’re a sales leader budgeting for next year, include some money in your budget for team building, not just within your team but across the broader ecosystem of your sales, sales support, implementation and product team. Invest in a trained facilitator using a behavioural tool like KOLBE or DISC or other team building tools to facilitate a session so at the end of the day, all of us are laughing at the quirks in how we behave and interact, not throwing rocks at each other because of them. While it may seem like a luxury expense, to me it is at the core of creating a high performance sales organization.

Once again, thank you for the response to my post “Why do we hate (our own) sales people?”. For those not in sales who commented that some of the criticism of “Sales” is justified and valid, this post is for you.


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