Like any profession, sales can and does attract some rotten apples. But today’s most talented, successful salespeople are far from snake oil peddlers. They’re confident, highly trained experts devoted to solving problems for customers, as is noted in Harvard Business Review.
Nevertheless, incorrect assumptions persist. It’s time to debunk a few mistaken beliefs about sellers.
Misconception 1: Salespeople are idiots.
Juggling the role of teacher, strategist, leader, and scapegoat without breaking a sweat isn’t easy. Neither is balancing the needs of many stakeholders across a diverse company, a skill that requires on-your-feet creative thinking. Solving problems and bridging the gap between a company and its buyers takes serious mental chops.
While the “salesperson as idiot” stereotype is largely unfounded, there are things sales reps can do to break down the stereotype. It’s important to quickly admit errors without placing blame. Taking ownership illustrates humility and maturity and demonstrates an ability to learn from bad decisions. Simultaneously, it creates an environment conducive to turning gaffes into chances to solve problems and build stronger client rapport and trust.
Misconception 2: Salespeople are shady.
Have some salespeople intentionally misled customers? Absolutely. However, lies and misdirection only work in the short term. In a digitized world, customers come to the table with lots of knowledge about their problem and a good sense of who’s doing business ethically. Trying to deceive customers doesn’t make practical or fiscal sense, and bad actors can kill a successful business.
Selling ethically involves maintaining transparency, both internally and with potential customers. By focusing on clients’ needs and those of the team, sales reps can help everyone work from a place of fairness and authenticity and provide a strong ethical foundation.
Misconception 3: Salespeople are jerks.
TV and film writers love to create one-dimensional, cold-hearted salespeople. Usually, they’re hot-headed type-A blowhards who will do anything for a buck. But reps who are jerks will quickly make a name for themselves. In our hyperconnected world, it doesn’t take long for bad actors to get a rep that can follow them throughout their careers.
Sales managers are often cast as villains who drive people into the ground to feed the bottom line. Most sales managers, however, understand that their job is mostly about helping their teams succeed in a positive, though stressful, environment. Constructive feedback is critical and should be given during private, candid meetings, but it may also be shared with the team when relevant. Supervisors also need to be open to feedback and pitch in when staff members become overburdened.
Misconception 4: Talented salespeople should become managers.
Just because you’re skilled in one area doesn’t mean you should manage people in that role. Being a stellar salesperson is a far cry from being a terrific manager. The skills required to be successful in each overlap in some areas but diverge in others. While some salespeople can make the jump to management, others should stay put.
When making the decision to promote a superstar sales rep, it’s important to consider what’s required in the managerial role and whether the rep has the skills for success or the ability to develop them. The best reps may not make the best managers, and the best managers may not have been the best reps. It’s also important to offer promotional paths to strong reps who aren’t a good fit for management.
Salespeople must possess a host of skills to succeed. The best salespeople are smart, are honest, and care about their customers and staff. Don’t be fooled by movies and TV; it’s a profession with a lot of quality people.
Read more: Hard Close Loses to Selling Ethically