Make everyone a salesperson - 25th July 2016

Is there a more valuable ability in the race to be a successful business than the ability to sell? I think not. Selling solves everything. Financial problems. Logistical problems. Headaches. Ok, not everything but most. Providing, of course, that you’re selling properly, responsibly, offering a product or service that works and offers the value your customers seek. If you keep selling well, other problems are much easier to solve.

I want to you to consider turning everyone in your organisation into a salesperson, at least to some extent. There is a danger that only your sales teams read articles like this or attend sales training sessions. Yet your accounts teams, legal teams, marketing, receptionists and all other roles (yes, I know many of you do all of that and make the morning coffee!) also interact with your clients on a day to day basis and the way they deal with your clients and partners affects your ability as a company to sell.

Peter Esders, an international property lawyer I know well, said to me recently, “As a lawyer, I have no legal work to do, no means of using the skills in which I was trained for years through university and law school, unless I am first able to sell my services to potential clients. It’s only once they become clients that I start my work as a lawyer. Up to that point, I’m a salesman. If I fail in that job, I can never succeed in being a lawyer.”

Peter recognises something many don’t: if your company doesn’t sell stuff, nobody has a job. Employees that provide a poor service – rudely chasing up invoices only slightly overdue, for example – too often see no correlation between the terrible customer experience they deliver and the customer failing to return for more business. “That’s the sales team’s job!” they say before grumpily heading off for lunch! Wow, some job. Calling a client that has paid good money to your company only to hear them lament the lack of love they felt from people whose wages are paid by such clients. (I know you’re not all like this! But too many still are).

Jan Caarlson was the CEO of SAS Airlines many years ago now. He revolutionised the way they worked and turned around the fortunes of the company based, largely, on this simple idea that every member of the company needs to sell the company well by providing an outstanding experience to clients every step of the way. His book – Moments of Truth, which I highly recommend – explained the philosophy that every time a customer came into contact with SAS (seeing a brochure, calling their offices, checking in at an airport, boarding a plane etc), this was a moment of truth. Using the unlikely comparison of the bull and matador facing each other in the bullring, he suggests that if teams get a moment of truth wrong they lose the client for life. Get it right and SAS kept them.

The interactions with the non-sales teams in your company directly affect your ability to sell successfully. They don’t need to sell the benefits of Product A or Service B or overcome price objections but they do need to sell the experience a client or partner has with your business. That takes the same skills as salespeople engage every day: patience, empathy, dynamism, compassion, persuasion and warmth. It will pay you back many times over if you can develop this across the whole team. And your clients will love you for it