Why I cannot relate to the typical salesperson stereotype – and why we need a new one for the 21st century

If you cannot relate to the typical salesperson stereotype you are not alone.

Many people we speak to, including many salespeople themselves, have never been able to relate to the fast-talking, overly confident and ambitious, competitive, win-at-all-costs, know-it-all persona that is often portrayed as the ideal salesperson stereotype in the media and business world via films, press, social media, books, articles, and so on.

Today, many people, of all sorts of persuasions – entrepreneurs, startup founders, those in professional services (law, accounting, engineering, architects, etc.), technical people, customer service staff, not-for-profits and even government bodies – are realising that they have to be able to sell or be a proactive part of the client value chain.

They are becoming more aware that if you have an idea, capability, product, service, or opportunity that you want to take to market, or get buy-on from your colleagues or stakeholders, then you need to be able to sell.

However, the predominant stereotype of selling on offer seems so alien and unpleasant to them that you cannot blame them for not wanting to be associated with selling. Most people want to do good work and that means they want to be able to sell ethically, honourably and effectively without compromising their and others’ personal integrity.

We need something else to counteract the current noisy, obnoxious salesperson stereotype that is still all pervasive in our collective minds, as well as still physical present in some companies and industries that encourage and foster these types of characteristics and dog-eat-dog sales culture.

Think about how The Wolf of Wall Street has shone a light on the extreme version of the current sales stereotype and, whilst fascinating to watch like a train wreck in slow motion, most people are aghast at the immoral sales and personal behaviours portrayed in this true-to-life film and want nothing to do with this whatsoever.

That the perpetrator of these crimes is still lauded by some people who want to model themselves on him as their preferred sales style speaks volumes about how dysfunctional and disconnected this stereotype of selling really is when it comes to leading a honourable professional career in sales. The silent majority are simply disgusted and never want to be associated with anything like this.

We need a new stereotype

So how do we make good selling stand out as the way to go?

In short, we need a new sales stereotype that represents the silent majority and how we want to sell and feel proud about what we do.

Today, there are very few absolutes and everything is subject to evolution and reinvention. Business is not just about doing deals anymore; it’s about developing strong relationships that go beyond great products, great service and great design, and instead focus on cultivating real value beyond price alone.

The 21st century selling stereotype is about the fair exchange of value, where people buy from people they trust and, in turn, both the buyer and the seller achieve real results and prosperous viable relationships.

We, like many of our colleagues and clients, are sick of the hyped-up motivational speeches, the tricks and secrets to success, the spin, and the rubbish that pollutes the sales profession.

The new sales stereotype is about giving the silent majority access to real, reliable, evidenced-based, practical and useful sales tools, frameworks, processes, resources, education and research that works in the real world and respect who we are as individuals.

We understand that and accept that sales is a continuum spanning from the predatory Wolf of Wall Street deceptive types looking for victims not prospects approach, to the truly client centric, fair exchange of value where both buyer and seller benefit from a solution sales approach.

Our whitepaper on ‘The History of Sales Methodologies – why some work and others don’t’ gives a very good account of the differences in sales approaches, good and bad, we may have encountered as salespeople and clients.

If we want to dampen the noise of the current salesperson stereotype we need to make some noise ourselves. We need to actively promote a better standard of selling that can be embraced by everybody whether they call themselves a salesperson or not. How do we do that?

Through our actions of being patient, attentive listeners intent on working with our clients to solve their problems, we can shine light on new insights or opportunities and help people and businesses better themselves. This will give a direct contrast to the current sales stereotype. Those businesses and sales teams who are already modelling the new sales stereotype are seeing great returns with clients wanting to actively engage with them over their ‘noisy’ competitors.

We also need to talk about and model good selling in a way that makes people feel safe, as well as excited, about the opportunities good selling practices can bring them, their teams and clients.

At Barrett, we want to give a voice to the silent majority of people who need to participate in selling and want to feel proud and positive about what they do. We don’t want people to feel compromised or tinged with the smell of corruption, deception and negativity that has tainted the profession of selling for so long. There are so many more people who can and would want to participate in the sales journey if only we could offer a better paradigm.

And we can.

Selling has become relevant to everyone. Everybody needs to live by selling something, even if that something is themselves.

We have example after example where we have been working with ‘non sales’ people who have learned how to sell well. We have examples of companies who actively engage their broader employee base, not just those typically associated with selling, to help them see their part on the client sales value chain. When you show people what opportunity looks like and you help skill them up and see how they can help people then great things happen.

Many companies who have undertaken the opportunity of including their broader teams in ‘how we sell around here’ are seeing immediate payback in the number of sales opportunities that have emerged and been brought to the attention of the direct sales team by so called ‘non sales people’.

The enthusiasm, excitement and positivity in helping create sales opportunities and help customers is infectious and very rewarding on so many levels.

We are calling on brave sales leaders and business leaders to show the way, to reshape the concept of selling within their organisations and industries.

We will stand by you and with you to bring about a better sales paradigm, a new 21st century sales stereotype that the silent majority can be proud of.

Who’s with us? Let’s start now.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is the founder and CEO of the innovative and forward thinking sales advisory and education firm, Barrett and the online sales education and resource platform www.salesessentials.com

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