Business Development or Sales?

I have been working with a number of companies recently who have been having issues with the performance of their business development team – intentionally I did not call them their sales teams because therein lies the fundamental issue. Everyone is in sales to a greater or lesser extent, in the main most people don’t believe that and shy away as much as possible from anything vaguely sales related.

Specifically anyone that communicates with anyone else with the intention of influencing the other to do something for them is in sales.

A child that wants an ice cream, a Nintendo or simply to stay up late is in sales. A wife that wants to go out with the girls and needs to get either the husband to sit for the kids or employ a babysitter is in sales. A member of the IT department that needs access to all pc’s in your department while you are all at work to do an upgrade is in sales. Any politician is in sales (whether you like it or not).

So if sales is simply the art of influencing another person to do your bidding why then are we so petrified of it, why is it such a swear word? Simply because we are all afraid of rejection to the point that putting ourselves in a situation where rejection may occur makes us avoid it as much as possible. A classic example is telesales which has such a brutal reputation; this is only because you have to deal with 45 rejections before you get an opportunity, maybe more.

How much did it hurt as a child when you are told no to doing something – just a little – however the histrionics that happen far outweigh the severity of the situation. Wouldn’t it be great to have a ‘Hissy Fit’ every time someone declined an offer you made -(some of us do inside our heads), it might shorten your career in that role if you did.

Sales also has that obvious association with dodgy – the wide eyed used car salesman, the timeshare rep or the double glazing salesman. I remember when my late mother-in-law told a friend of ours when she started dating a salesman ‘you can never trust a salesman, it will never last’ – she said. I’m happy to report they got married fifteen years ago and are still getting along just fine.

There are those who are naturally more capable of taking knock backs than others, those with ‘thick skin’ they don’t appear to take it personally when someone turns them down. The message to you is simple – sales is the art of communication, without communication everything grinds to a halt – be that sharing knowledge or information or simply asking for a date to go to the cinema, wherever there is an alternative solution to the one you suggested you have to convince the other in some way – that is sales. Sales is all about asking, if you never ask you will never get an answer!

Going back to the questions raised with these companies I have been working with all responsibility for business development was abdicated and passed onto the sales team to succeed or fail on their own. The other departments did not share the business development needs of the business and this was where the issue lay. What might you say is the solution here – a change in culture is necessary to one where everyone works together at business development, helping and supporting each other.

Some of you might call that Utopia or even unachievable – I disagree the best companies large or small do this day in and day out without even thinking about it – so can you.