The Changing Winds of Sales Culture



“We gotta make a change, it’s time for us as a people to start making some changes…You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do what we gotta do to survive” – 2Pac

We all know the enduring images of sales.  For some it’s fed from movies like Glengarry Glen Ross or Boiler Room.  For others, it is the used car lot or door-to-door sales rep.  We come away with the perception of sales as aggressive, greedy, manipulative, shifty, solitary, and very male.

It is not hard to understand why no one sees sales as an honorable profession.  No one grows up saying “I want to be a sales person”.  We praise the gumption and eagerness of the young lemonade stand entrepreneur or the triumphant Girl Scout touting cookies.  But soon after, those that have hustle and show talent are shuttled towards what society views as more stable and promising career paths.

Few people in sales seem to even want to be called sales people today.  Article after article has come out pronouncing the death of sales people, heralding some new non-sales approach, or celebrating the removal of “sales” from the company vocabulary.  The argument is that people hate being “sold” to or that what they do does not require sales people.  Company after company wants to get rid of sales which begs the question, can the sales profession survive?

The answer is, of course, yes.  In fact, I predict even more people will be moving into sales careers in the future.  What we are seeing is not the demise of a profession, but rather, one in transition.  It’s the traditional image of sales, how we sell, and the relationship builder model that held sway for decades that is dying.  With the availability of online information, smarter buyers, and easier means to try and acquire solutions, power has shifted to the buyer and altered how and when sales engages prospects.

The changes go deeper however than new technologies or availability of information. What we are seeing is a massive shift in the attitudes and overall approach to sales, one that is more collaborative, more transparent, more curious, and more welcoming of diversity.  Companies are beginning to question the conventional wisdom of sales compensation structures, team organization, and sales enablement.  Sales leaders are taking a more experimental approach with sales tactics and methods.

And it is not only companies and leaders ushering in change.  Sales professionals are taking active steps to refresh there approach to sales.  There is a greater emphasis and thirst for education and professional improvement and new ideas.  You see this manifest itself in the explosive growth of events like Sales Hacker Conference and communities such as the Enterprise Sales Meetup.  Sales professionals are fighting against the old school attitudes and deep seated, negative perceptions.

This is the new sales culture.  It is a culture of constant learning, fast iteration, open collaboration, and greater authenticity.  We are collectively hacking away at the stodgy tactics that brought little value to customers and diminished our own credibility.  Instead of letting others erase our profession into irrelevance, we are changing the game for the better and investing in our future and the future of sales.  So say good bye to the Blake from Mitch & Murray quotes and enter in a much needed refresh for the culture of our noble profession.



Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by tec_estromberg

About the author: Mark Birch

Mark is an early stage technology investor and entrepreneur based in NYC. Through Birch Ventures, he works with a portfolio of early stage B2B SaaS technology startups providing both capital and guidance in the areas of marketing, sales, strategic planning and funding.

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