I’ve been “in sales” a long time. The thing about sales is, as a profession, it doesn’t readily fall into a recognized formal discipline. I mean, you normally don’t hear an Engineer say, “I’m in engineering” or a Doctor say, “I’m in doctoring” (although the more humble may utter “I’m in medicine”). But just as an engineer, doctor, an auto mechanic or a nuclear physicist require specialized training or on-the-job experience, so does the professional sales person. When most people think of sales, their visit to a car dealer to bargain with a shark comes to mind or maybe their elation for their ability at getting rid of that old toaster on Ebay for a few bucks. But if you think about it, sales has elapsed through time into most any type of work related business.
Sales is a profession. We’ve all heard the saying, “everyone is a salesman” which is the first of two misconceptions I dispute here. To become a real salesperson, one must first develop the ability to “pitch”. If you can’t create the interest, you can’t create the sale.
Pitching is both an art and a science. In fact, when you break it down, the ability to sell successfully as a profession comprises the behavioral sciences: Sociology – the study of society; Anthropology - the study of humanity; and Psychology – the study of the mind. The ability to skillfully use this knowledge and progress to a mutually beneficial objective is the art.
The simple exchange of a product or service for another product or service, even monetary, is a trade, not a sale. You give me x product or service and I’ll give you x money for it. The professional salesperson however, must possess the ability to quickly discern the real needs from the wants and instantly develop a compelling reason known in progressive idiom as a “value proposition” all within a time frame of… seconds. The objective of course, is to maintain the interest of the person on the receiving end of this pitch so that they will want more and preserve a real sense that they have exchanged their cash for value and a trust in knowing they can return again and again not just for the product or service they were seeking, but with the true belief that their desire has been understood by this salesperson as a need, not just a want. That is the key difference between the ability to sell and the ability to just provide.
A provider on the other hand, presents a product or service, explains its uses and awaits a hopefully positive response and an exchange for usually, money. No attempt to justify the purchase is made or for that matter, to elicit anything other than an “I’ll take it”. If there is any pitch at all, it was pre-written and distributed to all company personnel by a marketer whose purpose is to advocate the superior benefits of said product or service concurring with the viewpoint supplied by a targeted market study. Does it result in a purchase? Yes it does. But would you call this a sale?
So, where does all this take us? Well, it takes us to the second inaccurate belief and back to nearly, the dawn of mankind and importantly, womankind. Way back when, we assume some woman somewhere realized she had in her possession, the unique ability to create a business model that would offer a service that is still in demand today, solely using her natural attributes. Despised by the morally opposed for countless reasons yet practiced by countless women (and men) throughout time yet considered the oldest profession in the world. Or is it? Think about it. No pitch, no poke.