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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Rizopulos

Is sales an academic subject?

Updated: Mar 1

Do you have a business degree? How many classes on sales management and business development did you take? Unfortunately, Sales is quite absent in most universities in the world, even if this area is a crucial part of business success. Many companies try to boost sales by simply recruiting salespeople with great track record and hope for the best. They are using traditional methods of performance management and KPIs that date back 50 years and belong to a time when the traditional knocking on door sales was still the thing.

The cemented stereotype view of what a good salesperson looks like has clouded the view of academic institutions to take sales seriously and view it from a scientific perspective

To obtain sales excellence, it is crucial to have a holistic perspective of all areas affecting sales success. Transactional sales is very different from a more complex consultative typ of selling, with different set of skills needed, and different personality types.

Without understanding the degree of buying complexity that your products or services represent from a customer perspective, it is difficult to calibrate your sales for success. It is crucial to analyze, align and harmonize all areas that enable sales excellence, and not only focus on the activity level of the salespeople, and the number of sales calls they did this week. For more complex consultative sales, measuring activity level is usually counter-productive. If the focus needs to be on uncover customer needs and to create customer value, the focus cannot, and should not be on measuring the activity level of the sales rep such as number of sales calls per week, or number of quotes sent, or presentation made.

The KPIs should be focused on behaviour and activities leading to wanted results, not on the results themselves, since they are passed tense. You cannot change them.

The way we organize the sales organization is also a critical success factor.

Sales management consists of many different academic focus areas such as strategy, organization, customer understanding, buying patterns, communication, negotiation, social psychology and behaviour science. You also need to learn about processes, tools and different methodologies. Maybe this is why many universities are not offering sales as a subject or a major. It is not understood, and not so straight forward. This in combination with the cemented stereotype of sales being more tied to a certain personality type and not very academic. Sales is in fact both an art and a science.

Please contact me for further discussions if you have doubts about your sales process, the skill set or abilities of your sales staff / sales leadership, or need structure or tools to help you.

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