Philip Squire

It's not your fault...

Philip Squire / 28 May 2013

Research conducted by our own organisation between 2005 and 2008 (part of a global doctoral research project) and continued since with customer interviews shows that less than 10% of customers sell to them in the way they would like.  So who is to blame?

No industry has publically been criticised for its poor efficacy of selling as the banking industry.

I can remember instances (this will resonate with many) at the annual review discussion with my banking account manager that they had to go through a rather embarrassing set of questions - clearly forced to talk about products that they either did not believe in, or were not relevant to my needs, in the name of compliance.  This standardised sales process has had huge negative and very expensive consequences. As reported, in the one of the national UK newspapers the Independent, 'The industry has already put £10 billion aside to pay back customers who were mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI), in what has become the biggest consumer mis-selling scandal regulators have ever seen'.  As a consequence Barclays announced in November 2012 the scrapping of sales bonuses and sales incentive for 18,000 of its staff. The CEO of Barclays Antony Jenkins explained, it's part of their journey to rebuild trust.  The Global Banking giant HSBC followed suit in February 2013.  Interestingly HSBC talk about refocusing on core values something that those of you who have worked with us will know is a huge focus of ours here at Consalia.

I wonder whether this shift from incentive-led, product-focussed quarterly driven sales targets will permeate into other sectors. Frankly I can't see it happening in the short term, as sales systems that drive sales leadership and sales management are so engrained into the quarterly driven share price KPIs of senior executives. This cycle is self-perpetuating: recruits entering sales become influenced by a 'results and incentive-led' culture and assume that this is the only way to do sales. There is too much bias on assumptions of what good likes for sales- too little research conducted into what actually produces long-term sustainable sales performance.

We owe it to the thousands of people in sales to talk about the ethics of selling, to make values in selling lead other levers to generate sales and to help legitimise the profession by looking for ways to properly educate the profession of sales. In all the surveys we conduct on the topic we find that 'sales' is considered, by senior CXO level executives, as a 'critical' function. Yet it's the only function that is not properly recognised as a profession. It's a poor reflection of our own industry that those wanting a career in sales will struggle to find an undergraduate degree that properly majors in sales and even fewer opportunities to pursue a post graduate degree in sales or sales management.

We can hardly blame therefore, can we, the front line sales people who do the selling! There is a requirement to collectively change the systemic sales system.  This the responsibility of the corporate world, sales leaders, sales managers, academic institutions, authors on sales, sales training organisations and other sales institutions, if we are to truly establish sales as the noble profession it is.


Leave a comment