Loud and Proud to be a Sales Person

So why do some prefer not to say they a sales person

I have been a sales person since I was 16. I come from a background of successful sales people with members of my family having sold for retail giants such as Selfridges and Lewis’s, two of my ancestors founded Royal Liver Assurance and one has even travelled extensively for a recruitment company successfully head-hunting banking experts worldwide (he now owns a brewery and sells beer). One could say it is in the blood, so why wouldn’t I want to clearly demonstrate my pride in our family’s achievements by introducing myself as a professional sales person.

Susan Marot

“How proud are YOU to be called a sales person?”

Therefore, I often wonder why many people, obviously tasked with the job of selling, resist referring to themselves as being in sales.

Definition of a sales person?

So let me first describe what I think a sales person does. In my opinion selling can be defined as “The chain of commerce where a buyer exchanges cash for a seller’s goods or services, or the activity of trying to bring this about”. Therefore anyone who is reasonably involved in any part of that process should consider themselves in sales. From a dedicated sales person through to a business owner who has to promote his or her own services, selling is essential to them and their business’s success.

So if that definition is correct then I reckon there are probably a substantial number of people who are “in sales”, but still they don’t appear to like to use the title. Some I come across include:

  • Business Development Executive
  • Customer Service Representative
  • Commercial Manager
  • Account Manager
  • Regional Director
  • Client Services Director

So why not put the word sales in the title and make it clear that they are responsible for delighting their customers as well as driving money into their business? Let’s face it at the end of the day that is what they are responsible for doing.

Could it be because sales people are too often perceived as being pushy and loud?

Pushy sales people

I recently delivered some work for a client who had a lovely group of customer service people they wanted to start following up on inbound enquiries in order to turn them into sales. The client said that he wanted his team to start using sales skills to do this. However, he didn’t want his customer service people to appear too pushy and loud, or as he put it “too salesy”.

In my opinion being pushy and loud could also translate as being a focused and effective communicator. Appearing “too salesy” comes from people in sales doing the job badly. It is the bad sales person who gives all of us great sales people a bad name. This could be why those responsible for selling in a business often choose a title that doesn’t have sales in it in order to distance themselves from the pushy sales rep.

Exceptions to the rule

Having said that there are exceptions to every rule and having the right “non-salesy” title can help to win business. This was especially true when I first started selling to the public sector.

Not too many years ago decision makers in the public sector were very scared of sales people. When I first started I was told to tone down my approach, and my title was changed to Business Development Director. This was to demonstrate that I was responsible for my company’s growth and the word director gave me the status that equaled those of the decision maker. Appearing not “too salesy” certainly helped me to be a success selling to the public sector.

Times are changing

We live in a tough world these days where operational and back office processes have been cut sharper than a David Beckham hair cut in order to maximise performance. Companies of all shapes and sizes are focusing increasingly on their sales performance, so surely making it clear who within a business is responsible for sales is of paramount importance.

Therefore my challenge to companies who don’t have the word sales in any of their titles is to consider putting it in. Why not make it clearer to your clients who they need to approach in order to buy your products or services.

For 30 years my clients have always known who they need to speak to in order to buy the services of the company I am selling for. However, I think I can confidently say that the majority still don’t think I am a pushy sales person. Loud maybe, but not pushy!