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7 Misconceptions about Sales Practices

Selling is such an integral part of business, but it comes with a hefty helping of misunderstanding. Though many of us have a more nuanced view of sales and of people who sell, there is still a certain stigma attached to it. A lot of these myths come from the high-pressure sales practices of yore;…

Misconceptions about Sales PracticesSelling is such an integral part of business, but it comes with a hefty helping of misunderstanding. Though many of us have a more nuanced view of sales and of people who sell, there is still a certain stigma attached to it. A lot of these myths come from the high-pressure sales practices of yore; sales has changed, but in many cases our opinions of sales haven’t. So without further ado, here are 7 of the most common myths about sales and selling.

1. “To be successful in sales you need to be pushy and overconfident”

This is a hangover from the high-energy, foot-in-the-door salespeople of the past. Sales is no longer a manipulation game – far from it. Modern salespeople realise that pressure tactics rarely get results and that building a relationship with the customer is paramount. Tend to a prospect’s needs and encourage feelings of trust in your company through helpful actions. Respond to their concerns and speak to them with warmth and humanity. Don’t steamroller them with one set option – most offerings can be negotiated on somehow, whether it’s price, delivery time, quantities or something else entirely. Compromise may mean the difference between a great sale or a total non-starter.

2. The old adage that “sales is a numbers game.”

This is another myth rooted in outmoded sales practices. The theory goes that the more calls/emails you make, the more success you will have in response. If only sales were as cut and dry as this. Sure, call volumes are an important thing to monitor, and chances are that higher volumes mean that more interested parties will be reached, but it ignores the customer’s individual needs. Consider each customer and the data you have about them; what are their goals? What part could you play in helping them reach those goals? How can you guide them through your own sales process by providing help and value? Modern sales requires a lot of analysis; looking into which prospects are closer to a sale, which products are appropriate to which people and key data about people’s buying habits. You can’t just tar everyone with the same brush, you need analytical tools and a sympathetic ear to help you figure how and where you can help whom.

3. “Sales departments and marketing departments are like two warring factions”

A lot of companies find that the sales department and the marketing department are two very different animals – ones that oftentimes butt heads. However, if you consider that the marketing department’s job is to nurture interest and the sales department’s job is to turn that interest into a sale, it becomes apparent that sales and marketing are working toward the same goal. It may even pay to fully integrate your sales and marketing teams – this way the left hand knows exactly what the right hand is doing. Integrating two teams that have historically been wary of each other is no mean feat, and I wrote more about this joined-up approach here.

4. “I need a thick skin from the outset > That’s something I don’t have > Therefore I can’t work in sales”

Of course you can! You may just need a little practice in thinking on your feet and not taking things personally. It can be hard to not take things to heart in the beginning, but in business things are rarely personal. Don’t think of it as “building a thick skin,” but developing a certain emotional detachment from business matters. As we’ve already established, sales should not be about pressure and cutthroat tactics, and a little empathy goes a long way. If you’re on the softer, more caring side of the sales spectrum, this can really work in your favour. As we talk about in number 6, a “no” is very rarely a personal slight, and can be down to a whole host of reasons.

5. “As soon as you deliver the product/service, the relationship is over.”

Anything but! According to Harris Interactive (in this article from Forbes) it costs 6 to 7 times more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one, so it pays to encourage repeat custom. Once a sale is over, it doesn’t mean your contact with that person should be too. Keep in touch with your previous customers; ask if they need any assistance with your product and make them aware of new developments and complementary products. Customer Relationship Management software can help you keep tabs on all of your prospects and previous customers which is invaluable to nurturing good relationships.

6. “Price is the main reason people say ‘no.’”

Of course money is a major factor in a lot of business’ decision-making, but it is by no means the only one. Think of the times you’ve said “no” to a sales call in your own business or personal life; maybe the time wasn’t right, maybe you just didn’t gel with the person you spoke to, maybe you couldn’t afford anything new at that time regardless of what they were offering. A good salesperson doesn’t just continue selling after they’ve been given a “no,” they try to understand where the prospect is coming from and possibly negotiate from that. If the time really isn’t right at the moment, a good salesperson will respectfully leave the prospect to it and pick back up with them at a more appropriate time – just like you would with any conversation.

7. “High-pressure tactics worked in the past, so they must still work now.”

Our psychology may be the same, but the business world is a very different place to that of 10+ years ago. Pressure-selling can be incredibly disrespectful to the consumer, not to mention inefficient. It doesn’t consider the prospect’s needs – only that of the company – and it can be a waste of time and energy on both sides if the prospect is a genuinely poor fit for what is on offer. But why are things so different nowadays? It could be all down to the proliferation of the Internet. The web has made buyers far more savvy as there are a wealth of resources and opinions about any company at their fingertips. If a customer feels they’ve been treated badly or unfairly by a company, chances are that the Internet will hear about it. Therefore, it pays to be pleasant and professional in everything you do.

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Do you think there are any other misconceptions about sales that I’ve missed out? Do you have any differing opinions on how sales has changed over the years? Please share your thoughts down in the comments!

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