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We Don’t Get No Respect

3 min readJuly 16, 2020

It’s a common refrain from salespeople. And it’s one I hear from people who are on a crusade to change what they feel are the unfairly held negative stereotypes of salespeople.

It’s a common topic that people applying to be a guest on my podcast (Sales Enablement with Andy Paul) want to talk about.

Which raises the question. How do we go about elevating the general perception of the sales profession?

I believe the answer to that is different than you might suppose.

Yes, we could perhaps do a better job of screening the candidates we hire for the values that are important. Yes, perhaps we could be doing a better job of training sellers on professionalism and selling with value.

After all, we’ve all experienced sellers who waste the buyer’s time with the classic “show up and throw up” routine. Making it all about them.

And, we’ve all had encounters with unethical and morally ambiguous salespeople, in business and in our personal lives, who make you want to hurry to wash your hands after talking with them.

We hold these up as examples to reinforce the negative stereotype of sellers.

However, in most cases, these sellers are not individual bad apples. Instead, they are the product of the sales cultures in which they exist.

Take a second and think about this. How do people learn how to sell? How do people learn how to act in front of customers?

They are primarily influenced by their sales leaders and sales managers who, through their own actions and words, model the behavior they want their sellers to exhibit.

Sometimes this happens consciously. Sometimes unconsciously. But it always happens.

In most cases, managers are well aware of the influence they have. They’re quite familiar with the actions of their “bad apples.” They might not openly sanction them, but they know what is happening.

In short, sales managers are active co-conspirators with sellers in undermining the perception of sales professionals.

And, there will be no substantial change in this until more resources are invested in coaching, educating, training and improving the behaviors of sales managers.

Think of a sales manager as a type of product manager. In this case, the product is the sales person and the way that buyers experience him/her.

Industry reports say that 50% of fewer of B2B sellers hit their quota each year. Win rates for many B2B industries hover in the low 20 percent range. So, if you’re winning only 1 out every 5 of your most qualified opportunities, that’s the buyer’s way of telling you that your selling is broken.

If you were a product manager, would you release a product to market that only worked 20% of the time? Of course not. It would damage your company.

So why do sales managers, who have responsibility for the reputation and performance of their sales product, release a product to the field that fails so frequently? Who would buy that?

It’s time to cut individual sellers a break. And focus instead on where they’re learning the bad behaviors that perpetuate an unfortunate stereotype and lead to poor sales performance.

It’s up to the sales manager to have the values, character, leadership and coaching skills to be the role models that sellers require in order to sell up to their potential.

Want to change the way sellers are perceived and received by buyers?

It starts by giving sales managers the coaching, training, tools, mindset and resources they need to ensure that a quality sales product is embodied in each of their sellers.

Follow Andy on LinkedIn.