Are Sales Stereotypes Negatively Impacting Your Business?
Despite your sales organization being a critical part of your company’s success, the sales profession carries with it a negative stereotype. This stereotype accrued over a long history of pushy behavior, talking too much, and being more concerned with making a sale than prioritizing the customer. But the profession has evolved drastically from its old-school reputation of pushing people to buy things they don’t want, don’t need, and can’t afford.
As a leader, it’s important for you to be aware of and address the bias that is referred to in studies as sales stigma. Yes, it’s a real thing. And it can negatively impact your business:
- Negative stereotypes (even from top management) inform many decisions about recruiting and the kind of person who will succeed in sales. Being articulate and extroverted is no longer enough. With customers more accessible than ever thanks to the internet, there is heightened competition for their business. Salespeople now need to be able to think strategically, build trust, and use insight and expertise to bring value to clients.
- Sales stigma inhibits teamwork and collaboration. Within an organization, salespeople can be perceived by their coworkers as hungry, aggressive, lone wolves that prioritize their commission before everything else. It may be that systems and internal practices tolerate and even reward this behavior. Leaders need to demonstrate that the sales department is valued for its revenue generation but also for its professionalism and team mentality.
- Outdated misconceptions of sales stop you from considering the sales experience as a source of value and differentiation. Of course, this is a significant part of the decision process in B2B environments. The stereotypical sales mindset of “pitch” and “close” is too narrow and keeps you from capitalizing on real value that helps you win business. When done well, sales shows clients how your business can uniquely address their needs.
So why does it matter?
Mitigating these misconceptions within your organization starts with leadership. Addressing them is key to ensuring your business maintains a healthy reputation with clients, preserves a strong team culture, and leverages the value creation of your sales team.
If you are interested in more on this topic, I encourage you to read my HBR article: Get Over Your Fear of Sales
Most of us are exhausted from this election cycle, albeit for different reasons. I’m going to highlight one thing here that impressed me on Tuesday of last week through the weekend. As I changed channels back and forth to see how different networks were covering the returns, I settled on CNN (as I did in 2016) because of John King, Chief National Correspondent and the primary speaker for most of the eve.
Regardless of your political perspective, his reporting was refreshing in that he was reporting the news, not making the news. Of course, his opinions weren’t absent from the broadcast, but they didn’t need to be. Because he allowed the news to take center stage as he clicked on states and counties and effectively articulated the circumstances, the historical perspectives, and current results. If you tuned in, you saw someone with deep expertise and understanding of every major precinct reporting results. I found this to be a great example of quality journalism and effective reporting of the news.
On the heels of the American presidential election and the announcement of a promising results from a leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate, the new year is within sight. As your business begins to think about 2021, I suggest this Forbes article “Beyond Covid-19: Three Mindshift Strategies To Chart A Clear Path Forward.”
Ludema and Johnson outline three high-level strategies for leaders in preparing their businesses for the still uncertain future. But 2021 can be less chaotic by leveraging what we’ve learned through the pandemic thus far and planning for the inevitable “complexities” ahead.
In light of the election season drawing to a close, perhaps we can all remember this: