The stigma associated with sales prevents many people who might actually succeed in sales—and even enjoy sales—from ever joining the profession. Here’s my own story of how the stigma kept me away from sales and how I eventually learned to see the profession differently.
I first came across Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People as I was looking through a bookshelf as a child. I remember feeling somewhat unsettled by the title because it felt manipulative to me. What kind of monster would read this book?
Curious to learn more, I asked an adult about the title and was told that it was a book about sales. This was my first introduction to the sales profession.
“Salespeople are notoriously regarded as manipulative, deceitful, and borderline unethical,” writes Mark Roberge, in the conclusion to his book The Sales Acceleration Formula.
Absorbing this stereotype at a young age kept me disinterested in sales for over 20 years.
The Modern Experience
My preconception of sales went unchallenged until I worked at BloomBoard, a B2B software startup. While at BloomBoard, I witnessed salespeople who created sales conversations where the prospect did most of the talking. When the salesperson did speak, they would most often ask a question.
This seemed odd and counter to my perception of sales. The salesperson seemed caring and focused on understanding the customer’s problem in order to identify the best solution, whether or not it could be provided by our company.
Roberge writes, “Salespeople should be thought of as helpful advisors and respected thought leaders. They should be sought after in times of crisis, just as doctors are, and their diagnoses should be taken seriously.”
Had Dale Carnegie titled his book How to be a Helpful Advisor and Respected Thought Leader, perhaps I would have been open to sales earlier in my career.
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