Sales is not a four letter word, it has five. Sales is not something to be ashamed of. Sales is not to be avoided or underestimated. Sales is an honorable profession and a good salesperson can make more money than doctors, lawyers and just about any “respectable” white collar job. Sales is not a dirty word.
I find it both humorous and frustrating that companies try to hide the importance of sales and effective sales training and still think they can succeed. I was recently at an investor group training where the speaker expressed his frustration with how often companies are funded with millions of dollars after months of due diligence on the product and executive team, but nobody cared to ask if they could actually sell. This speaker was a sales trainer and even he had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars without performing a sales ability audit of the executive team. He said both companies went out of business and he lost all his investment. He says that going forward he will never invest a dime unless the CEO of the new company is willing to be the chief salesperson first and CEO second. Smart man.
I work with a lot of companies. Few of them really know how to sell their product. You may have manna from heaven, but if you can’t sell, it will rot on the ground. About nine months ago a company came to me and asked if I would be willing to take over the sales of their company. They had invested millions of dollars into the product, branding and a myriad of other “really” important things. They were in deep trouble with sales declining and their funding spent. My first question was to ask if they were willing to fire their current, unproductive sales staff. The VP of Sales was making a six figure salary and had never worked for commission since he was hired. They said they could not bring themselves to fire him or ask him to move to a pure commission position. I was not interested in putting my time and reputation on the line if they were not willing to make the proper sales choices. They went out of business last month.
Before you can implement a good recruiting process, you better have a good recruiter. A good recruiter or chief salesperson can sell. He or she will never discount:
- How hard it is to sell
- The importance of a sales plan
- The importance of a sales process
- The importance of always having a full pipeline of sales leads
- The importance of an executive team committed to selling and the operational sales side of the company
- The length of the sales cycle
- The importance of creating a compensation plan for employees that is properly aligned with performance of their sale’s activities.
The CEO of a new company must know how to sell. 75% of a company’s selling usually comes from the top person on the org chart when the company starts. After the company has some traction the CEO will spend less time selling, but unless you are General Electric, the CEO better be committed to the sales process and be willing to get out in the field frequently. The CEO and President titles lend to credibility and if the CEO doesn’t like sells, you better have a ton of money to spend until you wise up and get one who can sell.