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Bringing Sales to a wider audience

Posted on: 3rd Apr 2014

Beyond Del Boy… The real value of the sales profession

Why sales professionals should feel great about what we do.

When you meet someone new and they say, “So what do you do?” Do you proudly say, “I’m in sales” or do you make some vague, slightly embarrassed comment about being “on the commercial side of the business”?

The sales profession has long been beset by negative stereotypes. In the UK these stereotypes have been around for decades, Arthur Daley, Del boy Trotter and more recently some of the hard sell, “in your face” selling behaviours we see from competitors in the TV show, The Apprentice.

The ISMM’s much needed mission has always been to promote the sales profession and encourage a clear differentiation between sophisticated, professional selling and the old stereotypes, between ethical and unethical selling and also between B2B selling and the low scope end of the sales spectrum.

But lets take it a step further, it’s undisputable that sales and selling skills are the engine room for almost any business, the thing that makes a business thrive and survive or not. But it’s more than that even, I’d argue that it is a force for good in society. 

Everybody needs to be able to sell and persuade. It doesn’t matter if it’s persuading your partner which restaurant to go to or which holiday to take, persuading your kids that they really must do their homework or persuading your managers to give you the resources needed to meet your objectives, or your customers to buy your product – it’s all essentially sales. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a job named sales or not, we all need the knowledge and skills to sell and to influence if we are to get what we want in life.

What does this mean in practical terms? Eureka! – A social enterprise has been doing work over the last 6 years that has been taking the teaching of sales skills to a wider audience. This enterprise business has been teaching sales, marketing and enterprise skills to kids, young people and unemployed people. They have been using the ISMM qualifications to teach these groups the skills they need not only to have a highly transferrable skill set that will give them a head start in applying for jobs in business, sales, and marketing, but also so they have the skills to be able to sell and market themselves and articulate their own value and the benefits they can bring to employers. They have been working with schools, colleges, local authorities and the European Social Fund to bring sales and enterprise skills to these often-vulnerable groups. Even Ofsted recognise the value of this saying in a recent report, “Enterprise education,….not only prepares children for their future life as consumers, producers and citizens, but contributes to outstanding achievement throughout the school.” For unemployed people, both NEET young people and older people, learning sales skills gives them increased confidence and the ability to communicate well and persuade people around them and especially employers.

Why does this matter to anybody already in sales?

1.      It’s good for improving the reputation of sales and moving away from negative stereotypes, which is a big positive for anyone in sales.

2.      It means we are building a good future pipeline of recruits for the sales profession.

3.      It means that as businesses or individuals we can fulfill our social responsibility and be contributing to our communities and feel good about it via our sales expertise.

How can businesses / individuals get involved?

·         Apprenticeships and work experience programmes are a massive area of government investment. Taking on a sales apprentice or a work placement person is a great way to get involved.

·         Go and talk in schools/ colleges/ universities and “evangelise” the value of sales skills and sales careers.

·         Support and sponsor programmes for schools/ colleges in your areas that introduce and train sales and enterprise skills, it’s great PR, ticks the CSR box and is usually a tremendously rewarding thing to do. Contact us if you want more details of how to do this.

Sales is a great profession to be in and those of in it should feel proud about what we do. These wider applications of what we do give us the opportunity to further extend the importance and value of our profession.