Selling is an extreme sport. It's aggressive, highly competitive and intense. You can tell just by the language used to describe our selling activities.Sellers who develop new business are called Hunters. They "go in for the kill." They celebrate "bagging" a new customer. In sales training, we learn the difference between a "shotgun approach" and one that is more targeted. Finding an audience of ready buyers is "like shooting fish in a barrel."
We pitch. (Pitching means hurtling something at someone, ideally at high speed.) We close (think slamming and locking the door). We celebrate stealing competitors' customers, and we label that activity "gaining market share" which sounds much nicer.
We are part of the sales force, we have sales blitzes, we bring in mercenary closers, (also called sales managers), we occupy sales territories, and we tag prospects on internal lists intended to show account ownership.
If there's a way to claim it or to kill it, we've got a sales activity that goes by that term.
What's the impact of this aggressive language and the hunter/prey mentality it breeds? Is it necessary to speak in these terms in order to sufficiently motivate sellers?
I think there's a backlash, especially as the nature of selling and the demographic composition of sales teams evolve.
For many sellers, it's downright distasteful to be cast as predators. For modern buyers, there's a clear disdain for selling activities that are anything less than mutually beneficial and collaborative.
Sellers who operate in "win at all costs" mode make costly blunders and end up losing more in the long term than they gain in the short term.
Maybe it's time to rethink the metaphors we use. Surely we can think of something more accurate, more apt for today's buyer/seller relationships. Surely we can convey the desirable qualities of sellers – determined, resilient, assertive, motivated – without making it sound as if the buyer must be sacrificed.
What do you suggest? What language and metaphors would be more suitable than the hunter/prey terms we use today? Leave a comment on this blog post, and let’s see what we can get started!
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