Selling is Easy. Yeah, Right!

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being told by people who have never sold anything in their lives that selling is easy.

These people seem to think there’s very little to selling. Apparently, all we do is go around all day talking to people. What could be simpler?

The Gift of Gab

I always mentally cringe when someone tells me they feel they should be in sales because they really like talking to people. While the gift of gab is certainly helpful, it’s a salesperson’s superior listening skills that really make the difference. That, and an ability to get in front of as many prospects as possible in any given day.

If selling is so easy, why isn’t everyone doing it… or at least doing it well? It’s been said that selling is the hardest high-paying job in the world and the easiest low-paying one. To that point, while commission salespeople are the highest paid people in North America, the average sales income is much less than $40,000. What’s wrong with this picture?

Everybody Sells Something

Every now and again, I run across people who delight in telling me that “Everyone sells, even if it’s just ideas.” After I agree with them, I ask if they’ve ever had to make their living by selling — where if they didn’t sell, they didn’t eat? Well “that’s different” of course!

It’s different all right. It’s as different as being a spectator at the Indy 500 versus being one of the drivers. What could possibly be hard about driving a racing car? All you have to do is step on the accelerator and steer! Yeah, sure!

Whether you’re a salesperson or a racecar driver, it takes skill, drive, dedication, and determination in order to succeed. It’s easy to discount all that when you’re just sitting in the stands.

I’ll be one of the first people to admit that selling looks easy. In fact, most jobs, when done by a skilled practitioner, look easy. There’s a tendency to discount the many hours of training, blood, sweat, and tears that are involved in becoming proficient at any occupation including selling.

Emotional Roller Coaster

Another thing people who aren’t in sales never see is the emotional roller coaster that many salespeople ride day after day. We probably go up and down more times in a day than the average person does in a week. I mean, if you have a 30 percent closing ratio, which is reasonably respectable by the way, it means that you get approximately two to three “Nos” for every “Yes.” Who wants to go around getting rejected all day long? Well, want to or not, that’s what happens to most of us in sales. We’re in a business of failure!

Born Salesperson

The “born salesperson” is another of the myths that plagues our profession. A lot of people seem to feel that salespeople are born, not made. Well I certainly haven’t read any birth announcements for an 8 lb. 7 oz. sales baby lately. How about you? Not too likely, right?

There’s no doubt in my mind that some people are better suited for sales than others, but I don’t believe in the concept of the “born salesperson.” Our research has identified 18 different types of sales temperaments or selling styles. Not all these styles are well suited to every type of selling environment, and in fact two shouldn’t really be in sales at all. It’s easy to have a mismatch between the individual and the job. I call this trying to put a square peg into a round hole. You can do it but there’s usually some damage to both the peg and the hole.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Yet another selling myth is that if you can sell one thing you can sell another. It’s sort of a one-size-fits-all universal salesperson concept. It would be nice if this were true. All we’d need to do is train a person to sell and then they could sell anything and everything to anybody.

There is a certain amount of truth in the concept of the universal salesperson in that if someone truly understands how to sell professionally, they can probably sell anything if they want to. Just as the basic laws of aerodynamics apply to a light plane like a Cessna 150 as well as its big (huge) brother the double decker Airbus A-380, the basic laws of selling apply to products and services, tangibles and intangibles, big and small sales.

What differs is the selling environment. The person who enjoys the relative safety of the retail sales environment where customers come to them, may not be comfortable going out to visit customers, or worse, having to make cold calls to drum up business. Similarly, the “hunter” type salesperson who enjoys the thrill of the chase can get bored in a sales environment where he is expected to provide long-term care and feeding of the customer. Finding new customers is his specialty; it’s not providing customer service.

Improving the Odds

When a person who has a natural talent for selling, and is already very good at it, takes sales training, something interesting happens. He or she becomes even more skilled and has more control over the selling process. Before the training the person tends to do things more by instinct than on purpose. After the training it’s the reverse. They start doing things on purpose rather than operating solely by instinct. This doesn’t mean they get every sale, but it sure improves their odds.

If outsiders really want to find out how easy selling is, let them walk in our shoes for a few months. It might change their perception. Unfortunately, this isn’t likely to happen.

So, the next time some non-salesperson tells you that selling is easy or that you have a soft job, simply smile and nod in agreement. You know the real truth and that’s what really matters. That’s what it means to be a professional.

Authored by Brian Jeffrey, co-founder of SalesForce Training.

SalesForce Training & Consulting is a professional services firm and training firm based in Toronto, with training centers in Boston and Chicago, helping sales teams develop and use the right tools for the job at hand.