By Ian Altman, Guest Author

How does the staff at your firm view sales? How do you view it? In many firms the internal image is not so hot. This can clearly get in the way of new business development. In this guest post professional services executive and sales guru, Ian Altman takes on the topic with some clear thinking and straight talk. I think you’ll enjoy his helpful perspective…lwf

I was speaking with the managing partner of a professional services company recently about their goals for revenue growth. I asked her how she would rate the selling skills of the firm. She responded that they do not sell anything, but they do invest in marketing.

Movie images of sales people have swayed many individuals to see “sales” as a bad word (but still not viewed as negatively as the word “audit”). Society’s favorite cliché for sales people is “He/she could sell ice to Eskimos.” In an effort to avoid any negative connotations, organizations use several terms interchangeably. In an effort to bring clarity to the discussion, I have defined three terms below.

  • Marketing: Improving awareness of the problems you help potential customers solve
  • Business Development: Building relationships with complementary organizations who might connect us with potential customers
  • Sales: Understanding our customer’s needs or goals and developing differentiated solutions to meet those needs/goals with mutually agreed upon price, performance, and outcome

The short answer is that if someone decides to pay you or your organization for a product or service, you just sold something. If your customer perceived a higher value for your services and did not simply select you as the” low bidder,” then you achieved high-performance sales.

The cliché about selling ice is a dangerous one. It suggests that it is a good thing to sell something your client does not need – something that top sales people refuse to do. Great sales performers deliver unique solutions to meet their client’s needs and help them attain their goals. The best of these people can help their clients anticipate challenges and overcome them before they happen.

Each profession has its stereotypical member that discredits those who perform their trade honorably. When you help to define, understand, and solve a challenge for your client, don’t be ashamed if you sign a contract and money changes hands.