Conventional Sales Wisdom Debunked

I thought it’d be fun to mix some debunking of general conventional wisdom with debunking of Complex Selling conventional wisdom.  I’m a contrarian to begin with, so this kind of stuff appeals to me, but it’s still amazing how much unsupported myth is taken as law in complex selling.

o   Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
No.   I love this one first because there’s so much about this that makes you WANT to think it’s true.  But it’s not.  There is clearly some nuance and personal preference, but the difference in perception between beautiful and ugly is really universal and inborn  And, defined by math, believe it or not.
o   Good selling = great presenting, or a good demo, or a rock solid pitch
Nope.  Be Columbo vs Obama.  While having great presentation skills certainly isn’t bad the research behind SPIN selling would suggest that great presenting is not a good indicator of selling prowess.  Presenting to a crowd of 1000?  Then you better be able to present.  But 99% of effective complex selling happens mano e mano and requires a focus on learning not presenting. 
o   Money is a universally perfect motivator
No.  Science and research show that money as a motivator, believe it or not, can actually hurt performance
o   Enterprise Sales People should do everything from lead gen to closing
No, again.  In complex selling, as with most things, focusing on the high value aspects of a process is the key.  The ability to cold call is no doubt important, but the talent to take a deal from (very) qualified lead to closed is far more valuable for enterprise sales reps:  
o   Sprain your ankle or otherwise have a swollen joint, and want to heal fast, then ice it!
No.  Wrong.  Ice reduces pain.  That’s it.  If you to want to heal as fast as possible then don’t interfere with inflammation!
o   More pipeline equals more sales or more sales reps means exactly the same amount per rep of more business.
Nope.  Almost without exception, figuring out how to be more effective with what you have will have a larger impact that pouring more in the funnel.
o   Guns are more dangerous than swimming pools. 
Of Course, right?  Not at all.  A backyard swimming pool is actually 100X more dangerous than a loaded gun in the house   This is from a great book, Freakonomics, filled with lots of examples of conventional wisdom being debunked.
o   Anyone can be taught to be a great salesperson
This one’s most fascinating to me because intelligent people say it all the time, with a straight face.  Can you imagine someone telling you, “just give me enough time, money, and practice and I’ll turn anyone into a college (or even NBA) basketball prospect?”  Huh?  Talent can’t be taught in selling any more than it can in Athletics, Comedy, Academics, or Music.  Can someone work to improve their skills?  Of course.  But greatness isn’t taught.  It’s hard work ON TOP of raw talent.  Hire the best.  And give your team simple tools to improve effectiveness.  The good ones (raw or experienced) will use them.  Bad ones won’t.
o   Sales Training works
Of course there are exceptions, and in at least a healthy minority of cases it’s not due to lack of great material or great trainers, but Sales Training, for the most part doesn’t deliver results.  Sales Training is a $20 Billion industry, so you’ll see a lot of pushback here.  This article by David Maister, author of the book The Trusted Advisor and recognized guru of business training explains that training “is a complete waste of money and time.”  Wow.
o   Great Relationship based Salespeople are the most effective type
Nope.  Not at all.  In fact the data behind the recent book The Challenger Sale demonstrates that “Relationship Builders” are the worst kind of complex sellers.  They perform more poorly than every other kind of sales person or approach!  How many people do you think will take that kick in the gut of conventional wisdom without a fight?