No One Sees the “Grunt” Work in Sales

By Michael Perla on Feb 24, 2015

1 Minute Estimated Read Time

If you watch any amount of television, it would appear that being a police officer, a lawyer, or a doctor must be one episode of excitement after another. The chases, courtroom drama, and adventures seem never-ending – along with a lot of other titillating elements to entice the viewer. As the people in those professions will tell you, most of their work is anything but … it’s often monotonous, routine and tedious. The paperwork, the insurance forms, the endless discovery processes. As I often tell my children, many things or situations are not always what they appear to be.

In sales, it’s not much different. On television, you often see a well-dressed, attractive sales person who is glib, hyper-articulate and appears to be able to “sell ice to Eskimos” or “talk a dog off a meat truck.” Here’s what you are unlikely to see:

  • A sales professional who spends a half-day dissecting a company’s 10K to better understand a prospect’s business and industry
  • A seller who role-plays a customer meeting with her colleagues to help select the questions she will ask and to prepare for any objections she might need to address
  • A sales rep who spends hours analyzing a customer’s purchase history and tries to uncover the relevant trends of how the customer can obtain more value from the products and services he sells
  • A sales professional who talks to her prospect’s customers to discover some compelling insights she can share in her first meeting with her prospect

The message is pretty clear … if you want to be successful at sales or any number of professions, you have to reconcile the fact that a lot of the work you will do will be on the “back-pages” – it won’t be visible except for the results – you win the deal or the trial or you find the perpetrator. For instance, they don’t usually show professional athletes practicing on TV – they just show the games – but it’s what’s done at practice that often determines the outcome of the games.

A number of research studies have shown that the best B2B sales professionals spend more time developing sales plans and conducting industry and competitive research vs. those who are average performers. There is no sidestepping the work behind the results – it adheres to the iron law of cause-and-effect.

The anecdote below is a nice synopsis of my point and take-away.

A woman rushed up to famed violinist Fritz Kreisler after a concert and cried: “I’d give my life to play as beautifully as you do.” Kreisler replied, “I did.”

Michael Perla

Written by Michael Perla

Michael Perla is a contributing writer to Symmetrics Group's blog and co-author of the book "7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation." Michael specializes in providing actionable insights to marketing and sales organizations to help them increase pipelines, win ratios and productivity. In addition to working as a sales performance consultant, Michael has worked as a sales overlay, head of sales operations, and head of strategic marketing planning. Michael currently serves as a Director of Business Value Services at Salesforce.

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