Ouch! This very question is a thorn in the side of most salespeople and sales managers. Most CEO’s and V.P.’s of Sales don’t want to discuss it. Yet, when ordinary consumers are asked “what is the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word “salesperson”, it is most often Liar. Followed by Arrogant, Loud, Egotistical, Poor Listener, and Relentless to name a few.
Who would want to associate with anyone fitting this description? Since sales are the vital link in the success of a company, you might think that employees who behave this way should have no role in any enterprise. It is surprising that most companies tolerate (and sometimes depend on) those salespeople who bring home the bacon at any cost.
Why would any company owner or senior executive tolerate those salespeople who lie, misrepresent, and shade the truth about the product or service they sell? When asked, these leaders usually quote the company policy that forbids dishonesty while disclaiming any responsibility for encouraging it. When aked to explain why a salesperson lied, the most common managerial retort is, “I didn’t tell him/her to say that.” They often point to a formal reprimand or point out that a salesperson was fired for lying to a customer.
Recently I had some experiences with a major corporation in the business to consumer sales field that was replete with customer claims that they had been lied to by the sales representative. These customer complaints were so pervasive that the company set up a department to assuage the customers by offering something free or refunding a portion of what they paid. The company sales training program is based on sales techniques and tactics from the 1960’s and their policy is that they do not hire managers or salespeople with other types of sale experience. Their sales techniques are purely emotionally based sales pitches that are based on a one call close because they know if the customer does not buy when emotionally high, they have no chance of landing a sale. This operation is driven quantitatively, not qualitatively.
This is not a new phenomenon. I have seen few sales organizations that demand straight talk, complete transparency, and that are based on doing what is best for the customer. The demands for growth that is levied on publicly owned corporations that focus on quarterly sales goals encourage senior management to drive sales, not ethics. Companies need revenue and few know how to drive it ethically.
I am convinced that all of this is going to change as the sales process becomes an automated buying process. I believe that Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Voice Response systems will dramatically replace the selling function by enabling buying. I think that sales will focus on marketing that drives interest and systems that make it easy for the consumer to buy. Top-tier, highly skilled representatives who are expert at collaboration and consulting will thrive.
After all, who wants to have to endure salespeople who lie, are arrogant, who don’t listen well, and are relentless in their drive to ‘land that sale”?
Harrison Greene is the Founder of Unique Selling Systems. He helps companies prepare for and capitalize on the changing role of salespeople today.