February 28, 2007

Sales culture

The culture of sales organizations and salespeople is a fascinating thing. I started getting into sales around 10 years ago (the I Hate Selling book was useful to me), but only recently have I witnessed sales management culture, the relentless pressure, and the personalities.

Sales people have such a unique role and set of responsibilities that few can handle. Examples include:

  • accountability to make committed sales projections,
  • pressure from customers,
  • dealing with support for products that don't always work,
  • choosing pre-sales engineers that don't always fit the situation,
  • dealing with screaming, crying, scheming, and outbursts of emotions both inside and outside the company,
  • handling pipeline pressure from management (who typically manage pipelines statistically via spreadsheet, even though sales is a very empirical, situational process),
  • and , in the end -- deal closing, which involves fighting with finance and legal to insist that you're not trying to bring down your own company or the customer's company, you really just want to sell some software and/or services.

There's also three fabulous movies to see to understand the culture. Wall Street, Glengarry Glen Ross, and more recently, Boiler Room. They're dramaticised into moral fables about greed & corruption, but the pressures and personalities of different types of sales superstars and managers are spot on.

Some wonder if sales is even necessary -- if marketing can make products "sell themselves", or if the world will become dispassionate logical evaluators of purchases, or that legal & financial negotiations will become manageable by small companies. Somehow, I doubt it.

Posted by stu at February 28, 2007 12:48 PM