Throughout my career I’ve had the honor, pleasure, and opportunity to teach, train, coach, and mentor many sales professionals. Some of which have gone on to great sales careers and some that didn’t stay in sales, all in my opinion are successful in one form or another. I always hope that I played a small part in their successes and could be there to positively guide them through their challenges. The thing that usually sticks in my mind is on occasion the term “Expert” gets thrown my way, which I quickly discount. I always get a bit squeamish around the term expert when talking about sales. Granted, there are quite a few sales professionals that are above the bar and some that are simply outstanding! My problem comes in one of the definitions of the term expert. According to the MERRIAM-WEBSTER DICTIONARY (www.merriam-webster.com) one definition of the term expert is defined as: “one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject”.
My guess is, my contention lies here…the “mastery” of sales. Quite a large list of great sales professionals will say that sales is an art form, not a science. It’s a moving target of proficiency and a constant flow of changing tactics and skills to learn and perform to stay on top of your game. With something so fluid and persistently changing, could someone truly say they’ve mastered it? I feel this is an impossibility, such a moving target is too vast for anyone to consider themselves a “master”. Besides, even if we were to look at the success rates or closing ratios, some great sales professionals close at a rate of 40-45% even the best ones are still around 50%. Now I ask, if you have a 50/50 shot at winning would you consider that “mastery”? Maybe, maybe not but for me there is still work that can be done there rather than settle for a label on the person. I would even go so far as to say once you’ve mastered a tactic or skill, there’s a high probability that its outdated or obsolete and you’re shifting your focus to the next trend. I do concede that there’s something to be said about some of the tried and true methodologies (old school, if you will), however in today’s landscape these tend to be foundational in nature. Most times these skills, the tried and true methods, are used as building blocks to get a sales career started. Let’s look at it from a different prospective, in baseball a 40% success rate or hitting .400 at the plate for a whole career would definitely land you in the hall of fame! (The all-time leader in Batting Average: Ty Cobb @ .366 or a 36.6% success rate with 11,434 attempts at the plate, fun fact…he failed to get a hit 7,245 times) But to me still not a “baseball” expert per se, of course a hitting expert, but possibly not the game in its entirety.
Case in point though would be, that pieces of sales can be mastered but more likely not in its totality.
In conclusion, for me…the term “expert” translates into “a work in progress”. I prefer to keep learning, to keep challenging myself and those around me to search out new ways of doing business. I’d like to maintain an up to date mentality and continue to create a modern path. I prefer, when appropriate, to be called a sales professional, a good mentor, or a great coach rather than a “sales expert”.