Episode 8 - Smashing stereotypes in Sales:
In this episode, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the stereotypes we have about what makes a typical salesperson – and why we should be seeking to challenge some of these stereotypes.
We often have a clear picture in our heads of what makes a successful salesperson – they probably look like the salespeople you see in films, in adverts, or on social media posts. This salesperson is usually wearing a dark suit, looking super smart, and the words that are associated with this salesperson are all about being strong, succeeding, being confident, and never giving in.
Whilst these characteristics can be very useful at times in sales, it doesn’t accurately reflect all salespeople – and neither should it – because these stereotypes can actually be damaging to the sales process in some cases.
Because, very often, by pushing this stereotype of what a salesperson should be, we can often lose sight of some of the other valuable skills we should be encouraging in sales – such as being a good listener, being able to pick up on signals from customers, or being able to think critically about customer challenges to come up with creative and engaging proposals that capture customers’ interest.
Sales enablement leaders have a big impact on the type of salesperson that an organisation hires, but also the type of salesperson they seek to develop – through sales training programmes and the sales methodologies that are put into place.
So we as sales enablement leaders need to be conscious of whether we are enabling, or challenging, stereotypes in sales, and ensuring we aren’t simply hiring the same salespeople we’ve always hired, and that we aren’t just training new sales hires to act like our existing salespeople – we have to always be asking the question – what behaviours, skills and culture do we want to train and develop here? And where does that image of the type of salesperson we’re trying to develop come from?
Is that image based on our own biases about what a salesperson should be like? Or is it based on what we see our customers needing?
For example, we often associate salespeople with being extroverted and very confident, but some of the best salespeople I know are often much more introverted than you might expect.
Speaking personally, I am an introverted person and never thought that a career in field sales would be for me – but on a lot of levels, it suited me really well. Being an introvert meant that I was more focused on listening to the customer and watching for subtle hints from their body language, I was very diligent about planning for meetings and researching my customers prior to speaking to them. I made sure I put lots of time into creating business plans for my resellers which would deliver value for them, the customer and my company.
In fact, research actually found that in studies of 4000 salespeople, there was almost zero correlation between extroversion and sales performance. It’s just that we tend to associate more extroverted behaviours with being a successful salesperson.
Today a salesperson is expected to deliver a wider range of services than they were traditionally ever expected to do, so being able to cold call, negotiate and deliver presentations is no longer the be all and end all of the job. Nowadays, salespeople are expected to straddle the line between marketing and sales – and also be adept business managers and create programs and business plans for their customers, partners and companies.
But despite this, many of the sales training programs and strategies out there still seem very focused on teaching those core ‘stereotypical’ sales behaviours. And they can often end up alienating many salespeople who feel they just don’t fit the mold of a typical salesperson.
If you look at any of the advertise