Changing the Name Doesn't Change the Game
Let's embrace the title of sales rather than avoiding it
Meta, or the company that used to be Facebook, has been having some struggles lately. It lost over $250 billion in market value. Revenues have been battered in part due to Apple’s new privacy settings to block digital ads. It has also spent $10 billion to build the Metaverse so far nothing to show for it.
The biggest story however is that Facebook lost half a million daily users last quarter. This has never happened in the company’s history, with the greatest losses in the emerging markets. The stark reality is that Facebook may have hit its peak.
Facebook made a big splash back in October by changing its name to Meta. The company saw it as an opportunity to highlight its new vision of a future where we live more and more in digital universes. The skeptics saw it as a shell game, diverting attention away from the growing controversies surrounding Facebook. But for users, they just saw the same old, manipulative, mind numbing, data collecting Facebook.
I saw a post last week from a church with the tagline “you are not religious, neither are we”. I can understand what they are trying to say, but at the end of the day, it is still a religion. That has not stopped churches from rebranding themselves. Now there are churches with edgy names like The Crucible or Firewalkers and you are not sure if you are walking into a worship service or a hipster bonfire.
Earlier this week, I joined a Slack group about communities. I introduced myself as is the usual thing to do, then a day later I got a LinkedIn request from a “Community Advocate”. The person seemed legit and wrote a nice personal message. I accept, and maybe an hour later I get a pitch and a Calendly link to book an appointment.
This is not to say I am not mad. I expect this from any sales person and the good sales rep is one that forges ahead boldly, takes chances, and builds connections. You want sales people that understand intuitively the opportunities to take and the moments when the right more is to give. And in prospecting, cold outreach is a take motion, meaning you are taking time and attention away from the receiver.
There are plenty of methods we learn along the way to take attention. The most common way is the email subject line. Remember when subject lines like “Re:” and “Following up from your CEO” were popular ones? The other way is to fudge your role. Instead of being the “sales person”, you take on a different title or role. Instead you are the “community advocate” or the “customer advisor” or a “tech specialist”.
For example, when I was with Stack Overflow and building out the business in Asia, the most valuable piece of advice I received was to change my title. I thought this was silly, but a long time sales professional in the region said that corporate executives will never meet with or accept calls from sales reps. So I changed my title to “Regional Director” and doors started opening. Well, there is more to it than that, but the title change definitely helped.
Did I change what I do? Was I magically altered into a new state of being? Did I manifest a new persona and career? No, I was still just a normal, everyday, B2B enterprise salesperson. But there are valid reasons to use titles that do not necessarily evoke sales, such as regional and culture differences that make introductions and relationship building easier.
Changing the name does not change the game though. Regardless of the title, you still have a territory, you still have a quota, and you still have to build pipeline and close deals. Whether you are District Managers, Account Executives, Relationship Specialists, or some other moniker, you are still going out there making business happen.
Some believe taking the word sales out of the sales role makes things easier in other ways. I have had sales leaders share with me that using more creative titles makes it easier to hire, especially with newer and younger generations of workers. Some feel that avoiding the word sales makes conversations with prospects less awkward. And then there is a contingent of people in sales that hate the word sales.
I firmly believe that if you want to be successful in sales, you have to believe you are in sales and that you are a salesperson. You have to own that mindset and perception, for that is good and bad. Shying away or avoiding that fundamental truth of your job is an invitation to being a less effective and less convincing salesperson.
A large part of one’s success in life is mindset and belief systems. Doctors go through four years of additional schooling not just to study and learn, but to grow in their confidence as medical professionals. Sure, there will always be a period of imposter syndrome, but at least it is a smaller leap because of that prior experience in the field and with patients.
The same is true of sales. There is no additional schooling, but success is absolutely hinged on your level of confidence. Prospects can hear it when you speak, through your body language, and in how you interact. When you do not believe in yourself or the product you are selling, it screams volumes to those on the other side engaging with you.
The role of sales also is about taking initiative to move things forward. Bias for action is built into the definition of sales. No sale happens if you do not initiate action. You have to embrace the sales aspects of being in sales, and I have observed that teams that do not embrace the word “sales” struggle with even the basics fundamentals of selling.
Maybe it is time to put to bed the non-sales titles for sales teams. It feels like we are trying to fake out our customers and ourselves. Ask yourself this, are you embarrassed about being in sales? Do you think what you are doing is unsavory or manipulative? If so, maybe it is time for a career change.
What about the sales role in your company? Is “sales” or other similar sounding sales title used, or is it one of the more creative options?
Mark Birch, Founder of Enterprise Sales Forum
The Enterprise Sales Forum is a professional community championing the practice of sales through monthly sales talks at chapters globally. Our chapters provide an open, collaborative and diverse environment to share new ideas, network and learn actionable insights for professional sales development.