The thing about sales

What has changed in sales after four decades as a sales rep, manager, and executive can be summed up in one word: Nothing.

I know, you are wondering how I can make that statement considering that we live and do business in a digitally driven world. Let me explain: What has not really changed is the mindset or the approach to sales. As a matter of fact, it has actually gotten much worse than ever in history.


The popularity (and use) of digital tools from email to paid advertising (like Google AdWords, Facebook advertising) to retargeting or all other forms of eCommerce, have created unrealistic expectations whereby a “click” equals a sale. And, as they say in the legal world, “nothing could be further from the truth.”

A click on a CTA (Call to Action) button is a click. What comes next, otherwise known as “conversion”, signifies an engagement but not necessarily a sale. Needless to say, I’m not referring to eCommerce sites that sell products or services. Sites designed to “sell” by providing all of the information and a checkout platform are excluded from this discussion. The unrealistic expectations of sales occur when an engagement is misinterpreted as a sale.

There has always been a negative attitude towards selling or sales. It comes with every avoidance behavior as well…no one wants to sell and it can be summed up in two main reasons: One, fear of failure, and two, when the business isn’t growing, everyone points fingers at the sales team. Digital tools emerged that (artificially) reduced the dependency on sales - “let the email do the work” or “let the button do the work.”

Here’s the thing: while the role of marketing is to drive new inquiries and leads to the business, the role of sales is to convert them into paying customers. The isolation of customers originated when the receptionist was replaced with an auto-attendant (“please dial the extension of the person you are trying to reach”) and our inability to actually speak to potential customers who stopped returning calls hiding behind voicemails (“Your call is very important to me and I’m sorry I missed you. Please leave a message and I will call you as soon as I’m able to.”)

Sales as a profession has never been easy. It still isn’t. As a matter of fact, penetrating the customer walls has never been more difficult. But one thing has not changed - someone needs to sell in order for the business to have paying customers. Not surprisingly, businesses that over-rely on digital tech to do the selling are finding that their growth is flat or worse. While sales may be considered one of the oldest professions, it has evolved to accommodate digital technology.

I believe sales not only has to adapt to the digital tech world, but more importantly to buyers. in a world where instantaneous is not fast enough - salespeople have to understand and know tools like “We transfer,” Zoom Conferencing” and other productivity tools. You do not have to be a tech wizard, but you must be able to provide accurate and relevant information very fast.

Sales is about intimacy and personal relationships even though some transactions take place online. Don’t confuse email writing, texting or sharing files via We Transfer with the need to stay connected with your customers and prospects; the ‘personal touch’ often decides who gets the order.