Tag Archives: Sales Responsibility

“I’m Not a Salesperson,” and Other Lies You Tell Yourself

If there’s anything that is guaranteed to drive me up a wall, it’s when salespeople refuse to call themselves salespeople.  In fact, when someone is selling to me and they say, “I’m not a salesperson,” I immediately put my hand on my wallet and leave it there.  I’m just amazed at the amount of people who think that the route to credibility lies in not claiming their role and responsibilities.

Look, I get it. A 2022 HubSpot survey showed that only 3% of the public trust salespeople.  That sucks, but it’s reality (at least we beat out politicians and lobbyists).  And – let’s be honest – that reputation has been earned by generations of salespeople who were, in fact, less than trustworthy.  But still, our profession, done right, is one of the noblest and one of the most important roles in business and our economy.  And when you disclaim your profession, you can actually harm your customer’s trust in you.  I’ll explain why.

My definition of selling (and my opinion about selling matters to you; otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article) is:  Selling is the act of helping customers make positive buying decisions.  And, when you are engaged in the act of helping customers make positive buying decisions through interpersonal contact, you are selling, and therefore you are a salesperson.  We can all agree with that, right?  And again, I fully recognize that many of our predecessors didn’t worry about whether the customer was making a positive buying decision. It was “sell at all costs.”  I worked with some of those guys and worked for some of those guys.  Guess what?  They’re obsolete.

The tactics that those past salespeople used relied on a lack of transparency and the customer’s lack of access to information.  Today, customers can learn more about you in ten minutes than they could in half a day 20 years ago.  That’s changed the dynamic. Today’s customers are smarter, more informed, more savvy, and more empowered, and they expect their intelligence, knowledge, savvy, and empowerment to be respected by the salesperson.  Which brings me back to the issue of trust.

Here’s something you need to understand, because your customer understands it:  When you tell the customer that you’re “not a salesperson,” when you obviously are, you are lying to your customer.  Worse, your customer knows that you are lying.  And when you begin your interactions with your customer on a lie, they’re probably not going to believe anything else you say.  It’s no coincidence that the “I’m not a salesperson” people are usually the least effective at selling.

There’s another level to this, too.  These days, there are a ton of job titles that are an attempt to mask the salesperson’s responsibility in selling.  “Business Development,” “Account Manager,” “Customer Consultant,” “Territory Manager,” and others are a way to try to elevate the salesperson in the eyes of the customer (and others that they encounter) and hide the fact that the holder of that title is, in fact, a salesperson.  Guess what?  Your customer knows.  They’re not stupid.

And, to take another side street in this route, those of you who are business owners, solopreneurs, consultants, and freelancers – when you are engaging your customers in an attempt to help them make positive buying decisions that go in your favor, you’re salespeople too.  Own it.  Be proud of it.

Selling – done right – is probably the most important role in our companies and our economy. To say that “nothing happens until someone sells something” is a true statement.  Without an order, no factory can build a machine, which in turn means that they can’t hire workers, which means that those workers can’t buy a cheeseburger, which means that nobody can open a burger joint, and…well, you get the idea.  Heck, last week, I had a speaking engagement at a company back east that makes corrugated boxes.  They had recently redone the plant to be almost fully automated.  And, as I was watching this huge, multi-million dollar machine convert corrugated cardboard rolls into finished, printed boxes, my first thought was, “Damn, I bet the guy who sold that machine had a great weekend after!”

Because, at some point, someone had to call on the owner of this company.  They had to ask questions to determine the needs.  They had to customize and make a presentation and communicate value.  They had to craft a proposal to show that value and ROI.  There was probably some negotiation involved and persuasion.  And then the sale had to be closed.  That’s the responsibility of a salesperson. Oh, and as a side note – nobody lost their job at that plant; people got reassigned and made the company much more efficient.

As you’ve probably figured out, I’m not a fan of titles that mask what we do, nor salespeople who disavow our great profession.  I’m the Sales Navigator.  I’m a consultant, I’m a trainer, I’m a coach, I’m a speaker, and I’m an author.  But at the root of all of these things is that I’m a salesman, and I’m damned proud of it.  You should be, too.