I read a quote the other day from French impressionist painter Edgar Degas. He said “Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do”. If you’ve ever picked up a paint brush, a palette and a piece of canvas thinking “how hard can this be” you soon found out, it isn’t easy. The end results look amateurish and the activity is humbling. It’s not that big of a leap to say that “Selling is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do”.
As sales development specialists we talk to organizations all the time; law practices, accounting firms, IT companies and all manner of professional firms that are under more pressure now than ever to bring in business and sell. Plus, more professionals are leaving the corporate world to open their own professional practices. Also, we talk to many mid-career job shifters that have been displaced for their industry only to try their hand at sales. How hard can it be! Selling is no more than talking to some folks, turning ‘em into clients and doing a good job for them. Then reality sinks in. Prospecting is tough and painstaking. Not everyone wants to talk to us. People are not open or distracted or disinterested. Sometime professionals provide great ideas but don’t get paid for them. They engage in unpaid consulting; they give up too much of expertise and don’t charge what they’re worth. The advice “You’d be good in sales!” “How hard can it be?” is ringing in their ears as they struggle day-today wondering how to crack the code of this important element of their profession.
Effective selling is learned. It’s a sometimes confounding mix of practice, acquired skills, guts, humor, planning, execution and mindset. For the most seasoned salesperson, selling remains a challenge. If it was mission critical to paint a picture, you’d find someone to teach you how and guide you through the process. If it’s mission critical to sell, find someone to teach you how and guide you through the process.
- John Martin