Telling People Stuff.

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Telling People StuffI’ve been engaged in the art and science of the digital advertising and technology sales for over 20 years now and have worked with hundreds of companies and thousands of sellers in that time. I’ve also been exposed to countless marketing messages, panel discussions and presentations. And I’ve come to a somewhat remarkable conclusion:

There’s not really much selling going on. It’s mostly just a lot of telling people stuff.

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This is not a distinction that I’m imposing on the digital seller class: If you asked most of them to describe their jobs, they’d avoid “the S word” like they avoid their parents on Facebook. They cop to ‘account executives’ or ‘client reps’ or – save me – ‘partners’ to their customers… anything but sales.

When I suggested in a recent post that many sellers were averse to using the phone call as part of their total sales approach, you’d have thought I’d cancelled Christmas. Many vented their outrage on the Seller Crowd site, saying that I was a dinosaur who didn’t understand modern ‘sales.’ Well, that’s certainly possible.   But here’s another possibility:

Far too many of us have never connected with the idea that our jobs are to persuade…to change the outcome, not just to report it. Marketing messages and white papers ‘tell people stuff’ about product features and company news. Sales reps have meetings, describe products, recite case studies and show slides detailing company locations and ‘partner’ logos. But these are all just versions of ‘telling people stuff.’   Then they dutifully report back to management what the potential ‘partners’ have told them; that the product is too expensive, that planning has not commenced, that a needed feature is missing. Now we’re just ‘telling our bosses stuff.’

You see where I’m going with this?

Real sales – persuasion, if you will – is harder. But it’s much more fulfilling. Sales means staying in the moment….being a little uncomfortable….asking for stuff… asking harder questions. It means you are an agent of change….you’re the one who sees an arrow pointing to no and turns it the other way. You are the one who takes a complex, messy situation and does the work to sort it out and turn it into first a possibility and then a sale for your company.

If you’re a seller – or are willing to put in the work to become one – you will always have a job. If you are ambivalent about ‘selling stuff’ and default to being one more voice that’s ‘telling people stuff,’ your value and viability in the business are at great risk.

To paraphrase the late, great Robin Williams in The Fisher King, “Decide whether you’re a teller or a seller. Then be what you decide.”

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