The opposite of selling is describing.
Selling means changing the outcome. It means turning a no to a maybe and a maybe to a yes. It means earning more favorable terms and protocols on a technology deal and overcoming the competition to have your content marketing program win the recommendation. Selling is persuasion. It's leaving the world a slightly different place then it was a few minutes ago.
This all sounds obvious, but - sadly - it's not. A great many sales executives in our industry (and I'd suspect many others) are not actually selling at all. They are part of the culture of description. They describe your products to the customers and then describe the customers' reactions to the boss. They describe the market conditions or feature shortcomings that prevent the customer from buying. They describe technology and process in excruciating detail, and they describe their own backgrounds and track records on their ever-growing resumes. They're just not selling.
It would be natural for those of us who run companies and sales teams to lament this creeping cultural affliction. But first we've got to stop causing it.
Stop Loading Your Team Down with Stuff to Describe. Between marketing, product - sometimes even your company's founders or top brass - your would-be sellers are bombarded with a crushing volume of slides, concepts, diagrams, videos, demos and more. The message is unmistakable: Just better describe more of our stuff and everything will be OK! This happens for a reason. So...
Stop Worshiping Your Own Product. The "Product-as-Hero" myth is a prevailing one, and companies in our world buy into it with enthusiastic myopia. When they buy, it's because the product is great. When they don't, it's a sales failure. Yes, work to make your product and features great. But immediately recognize that great products don't always win and you immediately recognize and elevate the importance of a strong sales culture.
Root Out Cultural Ambivalence about Sales. If the language of sales - closing, pipeline, incremental commitments and more - seems somehow beneath the brilliant engineering and master-of-the-universe business planning of your company, then you've got a problem. If within your sales team itself there are no titles that include the word "sales" you might have an even bigger one. We need to be as great - and as proud of - sales as we are of our engineering and business plans. If we are not, they will never have a chance of succeeding. There's your new mantra.
Don't just describe the difference between sales and description. Sell it inside your own company.
This is a re-post of one of the most widely-shared posts in the 16 years of The Drift. We hope it strikes a nerve with you and your team as well.