As published on Forbes.com

If you run a business, you’ll quickly discover that less than fifteen percent of your workforce has an official position in sales. Therefore, you have untapped resources with your non-sales professionals. If you ask your non-sales professionals to contribute to selling, they will often run in the other direction. In order to achieve remarkable growth, you have to engage your entire organization in a culture of selling. If you want to be successful, you quite simply have to discover the only way to get top professionals to help with selling.

Why They Hate Selling

When I deliver keynote addresses and workshops, I ask attendees to share the adjectives they use to describe salespeople. The list is not exactly very positive. In fact, most of the adjectives can’t be shared in print. The historical image of the sales professional is hardly one of professionalism. If you are a non-sales professional, you have worked hard to establish your reputation as a trusted resource. You probably didn’t grow up someday hoping you’d be selling stuff. Often, when pressed to give a layman’s definition of a salesperson, those who are not in sales will describe salespeople as, “People who have the job of convincing customers to buy our stuff.” Let’s face it, nobody wants to sign up for THAT job.

If professionals see a sales role as one that lacks integrity, then you’ll never get them to participate. Oh – and that’s a good thing.

Less than 15% of your workforce has an official position in sales. In order to achieve remarkable growth, you have to engage your entire organization in a culture of selling. Photo: © Rawpixel.com| Dollar Photo Club

Less than 15% of your workforce has an official position in sales. In order to achieve remarkable growth, you have to engage your entire organization in a culture of selling. Photo: © Rawpixel.com| Dollar Photo Club

What Customers Want

In my article on Sales Personas, I define three different types: 1) The Order Taker who simply reacts to a customer purchase request – basically stuff that Amazon will be selling if they are not already; 2) The Salesperson who thinks their job is to convince the customer they need whatever you are selling; or 3) The Subject Matter Expert who is the person the customer might actually value enough to pay to meet with them. It doesn’t matter which one you think you are, customers would almost always prefer the Subject Matter Expert.

Know Where You Have Skills

Coincidentally, subject matter expertise is something professionals already have. Where they are typically deficient is in the stereotypical sales attributes. But, don’t worry. No customers want the stereotypical sales attributes anyhow. The most successful “sellers” are experts at uncovering challenges your business excels at solving, and then managing the process of reaching an outcome. The top performers are almost more like project managers than people selling something.

The Only Way To Engage Non-Salespeople

If you want to engage non-salespeople to grow your business, then you have to adopt an integrity-based approach to selling. Your non-salespeople are experts at helping your customers solve challenges better than they can solve them on their own. Growing your business simply entails identifying additional areas where you can help them or others solve other challenges in your areas of expertise.

Avoid The Traps

Customers want subject matter experts, not slick-talking salespeople. This means that you do not want your experts to come across like salespeople. Rather, they need to understand the right questions to determine if the client is facing an issue that is worth solving. If so, then your expert has to know the questions to ask to understand key pieces of information:

  • What is the impact if the customer does not solve the issue?
  • What would success look like? How would you measure it?
  • How important is solving this compared to other things on their plate?
  • Who else will have input about how to measure the impact and results?
  • How do you measure up against the alternatives?

If your team can comfortably engage in conversations in these areas, then you’ll quickly know which opportunities are worth pursuing, and which ones are a waste of time. I’ve seen companies more than double their growth rate within a year just by teaching their sales and non-sales team members these simple concepts. Just don’t teach them to ask the three worst questions salespeople are taught to ask.

Conclusion

The goal is not to get professionals to be salespeople. Rather, you want your professionals to be able to quickly identify areas where their expertise would be valuable to customers. When you master that dialog, your customer will be the one doing the convincing.

It’s Your Turn

Have you ever encountered an expert who was so valuable that you were convincing them why you needed their help? Share your experience and join in the discussion on Twitter and LinkedIn.