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  • Brent Bonine

It's time to kill the Sales Dept!

Recently I was watching a show on television where a desperate, young, single mother is talking to her young son. In the scene, she grabs his cheeks, looks him in the eye, and tells him that he is going to go to Princeton and become a lawyer or a doctor. Given her circumstances, this was highly unlikely. As I watched this scene, I realized I’ve seen it many times before.

What I haven’t seen is the same, desperate mother, grabbing her son and telling him he should become a salesperson! She couldn’t tell him that she wanted him to go to any college or university and major in Sales, because there are virtually no colleges that offer a degree in sales! I find it fascinating that you can get a degree in every other discipline in business, but not sales. And yet, sales are the engine that drives our capitalist economy.

Despite the fact that you couldn’t get a degree in sales, some of the most sought-after interviews when I was in college were with blue-chip companies like IBM, Xerox, and others that offered great training and compensation for a career in sales. Today, it’s much harder to sell young people on a career in sales.

In a LinkedIn article published back in 2019, when young people think of sales, they conjure up an image of a guy in a plaid jacket going out to sell a product. Colleges and universities do little to promote a positive image of what a career in sales could be like. Millennials, whose oldest members are just hitting age 40, represent the largest demographic in the workforce. So, how do companies solve this problem?

Kill the Sales Department

If “sales” conjures up a negative image, then it may be time to kill the sales department. Killing the sales department requires eliminating all the negative ideas associated with sales. It’s more than just changing the name on their business card to Account Executive or Business Development Manager. It requires a more comprehensive approach to how your company generates revenue.

Killing the Sales Department requires that you address the following:

1. Compensation – Salespeople are asked to put a large amount of their compensation at risk in the form of commissions. They are told that their “on-target earning” potential is higher than other positions IF they hit their numbers. These numbers are typically set by a manager with little input or direction as to how to attain them. Young people are less likely to want to put their compensation at risk than previous generations. Companies should consider increasing salaries and providing bonuses for top performers.

2. Stop Managing and Start Coaching – I would argue that salespeople’s activities are more closely scrutinized than any other department within a company. With today’s CRM Systems, companies can capture and record every activity that a salesperson engages in. Activity goals are set and then salespeople are often admonished for not hitting these goals.

There have been several studies published that state that younger workers are more sensitive to criticism and a negative workplace. If a salesperson doesn’t feel valued as a contributor, they have no problem leaving your company to find an opportunity that suits them better. Sales leaders need to switch to a management style based on catching people doing the right thing and then recognizing them for this.

3. More team, less individuals – Sales departments are often separated from the rest of the company. Salespeople may have individual commission plans and be excluded from company bonus plans. Salespeople that call on clients and work outside the office miss the benefits of being part of the company culture. They are encouraged to “go out and sell,” and miss the opportunity to build connections with other departments in the company. Sales Leaders need to encourage salespeople to connect with other departments and participate in team activities.

4. Rebrand the Sales Department – As I mentioned above if the term “sales” conjures up negative images – change the name. Create a name for the department that reflects the impact they have on the company.

Recently, I had the opportunity to kick around a few ideas with one of my clients on this topic. After much discussion with his sales team and others in the company, they landed on the following: Solutions Advancement Team. This name replaced the Sales Department. Salespeople were given the title of Solution Architect. I had the opportunity to attend the meeting when the new title was rolled out and I can tell you that it was positively received. The formerly titled “salespeople” genuinely seemed excited about being members of the Solution Advancement Team for their company.

Like everything in life, we need to constantly grow and change to meet the demands of the day. Perhaps it’s time for you to consider killing your sales department and developing a fresh approach to how your company engages employees to help you grow your business.

If this sounds interesting to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I enjoy working with companies that are tackling issues to improve their results. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you. Just click on the button below, complete the form, and I'll be in touch


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