Philippe Collard

5 years ago · 5 min. reading time · visibility ~100 ·

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Everybody is in sales! And that means YOU!

Everybody is in sales! And that means YOU!My father was an “old style” professional salesman back in the 60s. He would go door-to-door trying to get people to buy his products (vacuum cleaners, pressure cookers, etc). When he came home, he told us (my mother, my brother, my sister and myself) about his day. This is when, at a very early age, I understood the meaning of the sentence: “Putting food on the table”. And at that very young age, I developed an immense respect for people who make a living out of selling a company’s goods and services.

Ever heard of the expression “used car sale man”. Of course you have. And what comes to your mind when you hear or read these words? Absolutely nothing good. However there are millions of used cars sold every year, by very honest and ethical people, to customers who will be very happy with their purchase. Millions. Yet, if I write “used car sale man”, all kinds of negative bells and whistles start ringing and blowing in your brain. What is the problem?

The problem is that, we have collectively decided that “selling” is not a trustworthy profession. And selling used cars is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to professional ethics.

But we have a bit of an issue here. Our society cannot, repeat CANNOT, function without people whose job it is to sell the products we invent and manufacture. If you do not have people so sell your goods, you do not have a company (even in the era of on-line sales).

I am going to state one of my core beliefs: selling is one of the most honorable and most worthy profession in the entire universe. There you have it! I love sales people. They are the indispensable conduit between a corporation, its products and the customers it seeks to acquire. They are the visible, front line, faces of a company. They need to get the trust of the customers with their own credibility. In many instances, sales people “sell themselves” before they are in the position to sell your products. If the products does not do what it is said to be doing, if its quality is not what is expected, the first person to hear about it (mostly in negative terms) will be the sales person. [If you buy a NEW car that breaks down 30 days after you buy it, the face that will come to your mind is that of the sales person who sold it to you. Yet, the sales person did not design it, did not engineer it, did not manufacture it, did not do the quality just sold it to you, and, for the most part, put her/his faith into the fact that the “product works as advertised”].

The basic equation is very simple: no sales people = no sales = no company (regardless of how innovative your products may be).

Where does this prevalent attitude come from? Very simple! It comes from the fact that “selling” is considered an activity that is solely performed by “sales people”. Whereas it may sound logical, there is nothing further from reality. In other words, “they” (sales people) “sell” what “we” (as in the rest of the employees) produce and manufacture. We have the “sales department” where all these guys with BMWs and golden necklaces “sell”, and then, there is the rest of us, management included, who really work hard.

Basically, if you ask someone on an assembly line if she/he is in sales, I am sure the answer will be “of course not”. Or someone in customers support. Or in engineering. Or a member of the admin staff. If you have that kind of segregation in your company, you are headed for disaster.

Selling is part of the job description of EVERY SINGLE COMPANY EMPLOYEE OF EVERY SINGLE CORPORATION. In other words, in a company: EVERYBODY IS IN SALES!!!

Think of it this way: every single corporate function is simply a support function to the sales department. Engineering designs things that can be the sales department. Quality control ensures that said products are good so that...the sales department can sell them. The financial staff issues bills and collect money...from the customers the sales people sold to. The customer services department...ensures that the customers the sales department sold to are happy. If you want to draw an organizational chart of your company as real life has it, you should put the sales department at the center and all the other functions, including management, as little bubbles around it.

Why is that? For one very simple reason: A company only exists because of its customers. NO customers, NO company. And your sales people are the ones that are closest to your customers (the folks whose money pay the bills). Basically, the further away your position is from direct interaction with customers, the less relevant it is to the company's health and wealth. At least, this is the way I see it.

Under that scheme, the receptionist who takes calls from customers who want to talk to “somebody because I have a problem” is (a) in sales (remember, everybody is) and (b) a lot more relevant to the company's going forward that someone (whomever that may be) who does not talk to a customer in a 12 months span.

Here you have it: EVERYBODY IS IN SALES.

If the vast majority of employees in your enterprise start believing this simple fact, sales will go up, I guarantee it. Smart employees will retort: “well, if I am in sales, do I get a commission”. And that is the reason you must have an overall compensation structure that is tied to results (sales and profitability). If you treat your employees like sales people, then they must be compensated like sales people and must benefit from the results (profit sharing, profitability sharing, etc).

Now, if you are in sales, you must have customer interactions. Thus you need to create these interactions for those who would not have them during the “normal” course of their work. Here are a few things I did in the companies I ran as a CEO:

  • I sent engineers to tag along on sales calls with the sales folks. They realized that selling a $250,000 piece of software that you believe is the most significant contribution to mankind since the invention of the wheel is not such an easy task, especially when the customers, assembled in front of you, ask questions about the design problems in your product that are not helping them at all. (In shot, they are telling you that your wheel is square!)
  • I required engineers to spend a week on the support hot line, taking calls from customers who had issues with our products.
  • I instituted a program whereby all members of the executive staff (including myself) had to make customer satisfaction (or lack of thereof) survey calls. In other words, the CFO, VP Engineering, etc would call a customer department manager and ask how we were doing.
  • And when customers or prospective customers would visit headquarters, we had an open door policy which maximized the interaction between customer representatives and the company's employees.

At one company, I had large stickers made for each employee. One said: “What am I going to do today to help sell our products?” The other one said: “What have I done today to help sell our products?”. I then required those two stickers to be visibly displayed in each employee's cubicle or office. I told the staff that these two questions were the two most important questions they should ask themselves and answer every day, starting with the first one in the morning, and ending their day answering the second one. I also told them that, at any moment, I could drop by for a chat and ask them their answers to these questions for that day or the previous day. That clearly got my point across that sales is not the simply the “job of the sales people”, but the responsibility of every person working in the company.

When you achieve this kind of alignment, when ownership for “sales” spread throughout each and every department of your organization, you will succeed. Engineers will design better products, more adapted to the customers’ needs, customer support will not see their task as simply dealing with “people who only call to bitch about our products” but as a way to make sure that customers are successful (because successful customers will help you sell your own products better that you ever can).

Once your folks believe that “everybody is in sales”, you will sell more and you will be more profitable and your team, your company, will be more in synch.

Happy trails!

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Javier 🐝 CR

4 years ago #2

Helena Jansen van Vuuren thanks for sharing this buzz ! welcome to the hive

Renée 🐝 Cormier

5 years ago #1

I totally agree with you! I don't know how anyone can think they are above sales and actually be in business. Here is a post I wrote about how to influence the perceptions that affect your sales. I hope you like it.

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