I’d like to start by recognizing that I am, in fact, a sales person. I have been a sales person for the past 20 years. I am proud of what I do as a sales person. While my current title is Director of Client Experience, I am responsible for making sure we have new business flowing through the OZ doors at Capsule. I love my job. In fact, there is very little separation between Kitty Hart (mom, wife, friend, daughter, sister) and Kitty Hart (HartofCapsule) on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Therefore, this is close to my heart.
I recently introduced myself to someone on a tradeshow floor with the intention of having a conversation about their brand. Much to my surprise, the person’s first words were, “I’m just a sales guy, let me find someone responsible.” The week following, after the loss of a potential client I probed for feedback, I learned one of the reasons we were not selected was my role in the final presentation. The exact words were, “you’re just biz dev.” Apparently my interaction as the business development face of Capsule didn’t provide a good understanding of the Capsule team's talents and expected outcomes for our clients. Ouch. I’ve never been physically socked in the gut, but these two zingers certainly packed a punch.
As these words have been ringing in my ears over the past few weeks, I’m reminded of an educational video from my childhood. Remember Schoolhouse Rock and their simple approach to helping kids understand how our government creates laws? Take a look, you might understand why I’m drawing this correlation.
Oh that poor, little, sad dude. Bill sits on Capitol Hill hoping to make its way through legislation and ultimately to the illustrious designation of Law. In the video, it’s interesting to see how Bill goes from being a weak and disheveled sad-sack to a confident and strong Law commanding authority and respect. In the beginning, both his body and verbal language scream low self-esteem and value. But what poor Bill doesn’t recognize is that his future self, the Law, wouldn’t be realized if he didn’t hang out so diligently on the steps of Capitol Hill, fighting in the trenches, carrying the message. Bill really needs to flip that frown and say, “Heck yah, I’m a Bill!”
The word that has no place in this conversation is “just”. Consider how this little word minimizes anything with which it is paired. Regarding people and roles, I can tell you there isn’t one person inside the walls of Capsule that can say “I’m just a ...”. Wouldn’t it be awful to get up every day and wear a “just” position name badge?
In my view, the only individual inside any company, no matter how large, that can refer to themselves as a “just” is the highest ranking position. It is a CEO’s job to create an environment in which every person provides value and contributes to the success of the entity. Ms. CEO can say, “I’m just the CEO” because hopefully this leader has surrounded herself with a company full of proud brand ambassadors that make the company what it is.
This topic and use of the word “just” is important as we all find ways to contribute in our world - but bringing this back to how it's related to the sales role is my main point today.
The next time someone says to me, “I’m just a sales guy,” I’m going to be prepared with the following rebuttal.
Here’s why you’re important:
1) In many situations, you are the face of the brand, the front line. You may be a person’s first or second interaction. Telling the story of the brand, service, product, etc. is critical in these moments.
2) If the salesperson didn’t exist, how would new business enter an organization? Does it just appear at the front door like little Bill sitting on the Capitol steps? Do we live in such a fruitful economy that there is enough business for every brand to survive? Ah, not likely.
3) When customers have questions, concerns, issues or even praise, where do they go? Is it an automated system chirping them through a poorly orchestrated Q&A? Or is it a friendly voice on the other end of the line? Is it a conversation over lunch in which your customer hears the genuine words, “I’m here to help. I can address this situation for you. And thank you for your business.” In our over-automated world, you may be the one human being who can make or break a brand impression.
4) How does marketing, manufacturing and management know what is happening on the front lines without you? Again, just like Bill, you are in the trenches. You are fielding questions and educating potential customers about the product, service or experience. What are people saying about it? What are the complaints, suggestions or common misperceptions? Marketing, manufacturing and management live in a bubble if they are not relying on the sales team to provide valuable real-time information and insights.
5) Selling is damn hard and your job is never done. It requires persistence, likeability, brains, tenacity, thick skin and creativity. It’s great to celebrate wins but reality is a rigorous effort around filling the funnel and a sales manager whispering in your ear, “what have you done for us lately?”
So if anyone ever says you’re just a sales guy, you have my permission to tell them they’re “just an ass.” Sales people of the world, unite! Be proud of the role you play within your organization. It takes a special breed. No need to get overly cocky but reality is, without you bringing it in, there would be nothing to do.
Now get out there and kick “just” people where it hurts. Make it rain with new business opportunities.