“What is Sales?” Business Development Mistakes

March 30, 2022

One of the problems when any company considers how to increase sales is that we often misunderstand what sales is. A typical dictionary definition is: a transaction between two or more parties, typically a buyer and a seller, in which goods or services are exchanged for money or other assets.

On that, we can all agree. Where misunderstanding, and likely failure, comes is how to create the transaction. What are the common misunderstandings?

  1. We need to close harder
  2. We must offer discounts
  3. We need to hammer our sales teams to perform

Under the surface of all 3 points is the same misunderstanding: we can FORCE PEOPLE TO BUY. No, that is not what sales is; it never has been and never will be.

To sell properly and consultatively, in a manner which creates a long-term relationships and repeat transactions, 2 foundations are required: Trust and Need. In my interview with Michael Tobin OBE this week (available on the Sales Talent Podcast from 5th May), he talked about the essence of sales in this way.

“Think of trust as a VPN (Virtual Private Network). You connect with the other person through a VPN of trust; put anything down there and it will be received positively as they trust you. I have had sales that started with a conversation several years earlier and, even though no deal happened for a long time, the trust – the VPN – was created. Later, that trust is combined with a need for your product or service and, hey presto, you don’t even need to ‘sell’ as such.”

Mike’s thoughts chime with how I have always thought about business development: the key to sales is helping people make good buying decisions. To do that, we must understand their needs. Understanding needs comes from a sense of curiosity and desire to help, something we do through asking questions and listening carefully to the answers. At the heart of sales, therefore, is a mission: The Search for Truth. Once we know the truth about a potential client’s needs, we can help them make a decision providing we have created a feeling of trust. We can either do that when the need arises or we can do in advance (like Mike Tobin).

What can you take from this point to help you increase the sales of your team? Well, with immediate effect, stop telling your team to close harder or cut prices and definitely stop beating them into submission over performance. Instead, ask them to do 2 things as many times a day as they can:

  1. Build trust in themselves and the company
  2. Search for truth about people’s needs

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