Sue Barrett, founder of Barrett Consulting, continues her popular sales industry blogging series for Marketing mag. This week she debunks those old myths that sales is a dark art, and down there with the used car salesman.

Salespeople can’t be trusted. They tell fibs and are only out to make a buck. Not true. Well, at least not anymore…although of course, there are still the odd greasy salespeople operating.

Selling for a long time has been considered as a “dirty” profession or activity, however necessary. As human beings we don’t arrive with a set of instructions or beliefs and values. We are taught everything we know. We shape our behavior from our experiences, environment and people around us. It’s said that it takes around 6-8 weeks to unwittingly pick up and adopt another’s views, beliefs and perceptions as your own.

As a society we have long believed in the myth that selling is something bad or dishonourable. I suppose our history has perpetuated this belief. The role of the salesperson has been propelled through considerable change every ten years and for good reason. Selling is how we all make a crust. Whether we like it or not, everybody lives by selling something.

For more years than I care to remember selling has been much maligned. It is an act or career choice that is looked down upon with disdain. ‘I don’t sell’ or ‘we’re not called sales people here’ or ‘we don’t have to sell’ are all too common statements we at Barrett hear from organisations when delivering our sales training programs.

The irony is that these very same people, despite their predications, rely on the profession and skill of selling for their livelihoods every day yet they are in denial about this important capability in their businesses. They dance around the topic trying to call it something else all the while people feel a sense of unease about something not being quite right. There is a misalignment, a dissonance and no one can put their finger on it. ‘Don’t mention the war’.It’s fair enough too and high time that this enigma about selling was put to rest. Selling by its definition is the ability to influence another’s decision. Aren’t we, by default, all involved with selling then? Even if we are not “salespeople” we all in some form or another influence other people’s decisions. Whether it be by selling a product or service, listening and providing advice to a friend, applying for a new job or asking for a raise or promotion, haggling for a discount…the list goes on. The fact is we probably all sell more than a few times each day of our lives, outside our professions.

Any action can be tainted with unethical, illegal and dishonourable intentions, actions and behaviours. The act of selling is no different. Selling, itself, is not a dirty word. It is the aggression, intimidation, bullying, lies, deception and cheating that people choose to employ in place of ethical selling practices that is the real issue we need to address. If you want your people to be able to proactively and ethically listen, show interest, find common ground, resolve issues, find solutions, work collaboratively and influence others to make better, more informed decisions then you want your people to be able to say with pride when asked what they do ‘I am in a sales career, aren’t we all?’

Sue Barrett
BY Sue Barrett ON 18 July 2011
Sue Barrett is one of the leading female voices commenting on sales today. An experienced business speaker and adviser, facilitator, sales coach, training provider and entrepreneur and founder of Barrett Consulting, which provides sales assessments, sales consulting, sales coaching and sales training programs.

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