Yes – That The Economist

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Today we’re re-publishing an article that we thought merits a second look, or a first one if you missed it last time around.

I read The Economist a lot. I subscribe to it and find that it provides nice summary articles about what’s going on in world affairs and in politics and in commerce, with a bit of culture thrown in for good measure.

In the business book section of the April 7th – 13th 2012 issue is an article reviewing two recent books about sales. The title of the article is “Salesmanship – Ice to the Eskimos.” Here are my observations on what the venerable journal has to say about our profession.

“Without sales, companies would not exist.”

So why is selling essentially ignored in academia? The Economist says that Mark Benioff, the founder of Salesforce.com, complains that the sales profession is ignored by business schools and hardly even considered as a management subject. That’s good, because if Benioff feels like this, he has some power and the tool to change things. How about the Mark Benioff Department of Professional Sales at USC, where he went to school?

“Many Western corporate bosses are trying to turn sales from an art into more of a science.”

The fact is, it is both, and always has been. But salespeople themselves propagate the idea that it’s an art. In this way, they protect their turf from interference by other disciplines in business. Sales is mystical, don’t even try to tell us how to do it.

One of the books reviewed says that companies should creates “sales factories” where sales teams are administered by support people from other disciplines, and equip salespeople with computing devices rather than briefcases. That is going a bit too far in the other direction, but the intent is good.

“Companies still have plenty of Willy Lomans not selling very much. They should seek to standardize performance by finding out what the best salespeople do and making sure everyone applies the same techniques.”

This is the domain of sales automation, and the science behind accomplishing this is very much a part of SalesWays tools and training.

The Economist article references a study on salesmanship that was done in 1961 by an industrial psychologist. It said that the prime drivers of salesmen are greed, hostility and immaturity. I have only experienced one salesman like that, and I didn’t keep him around very long. My own experience says that professional sales people are motivated, personable, articulate, and professional.

Anyway, it’s refreshing to see The Economist spend some time on a business topic usually neglected. The gist of their article was to reinforce our conception that nothing much is changed in the world of sales, even though there are many people out there who agree with us that it should.

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