A guest post from my colleague James Hipkiss who leads our fundraising activity... this is an issue that crops up, both in our business, and that of our portfolio companies. 

Salespeople can sometimes feel the need to be apologetic about their chosen profession.  This can often be a function of the development of a company culture whereby ‘technical’ colleagues can, at times, be dismissive of the product or service knowledge of salespeople, and those in support roles can become frustrated by the business travel and client entertainment ostensibly enjoyed by their sales colleagues. 

This situation isn't helped by the absence of a professional qualification for salespeople and, aside from revenue targets, often amorphous job descriptions.  Sales is an ever changing (client by client, product by product) mix of art and science, that many without sales experience struggle to understand or appreciate. 

In his two part article 'Why do we hate (our own) sales people', Peter Smith addresses these issues by highlighting the dangers of the 'corporate inferiority complex' often bestowed on salespeople.  He argues that salespeople are not only the life blood of a company (after all, a company needs a client to buy its product or service), but more often than not they are the glue that holds a business together. As Smith explains: 'Anything the customer needs, whether reasonable or not, which is not part of someone else's job description, falls to them to solve.'

As with all relationships, it's important to walk a mile in the other person's shoes.  The second part of the article acknowledges this maxim, and makes a strong case for salespeople to 'Save some of your best selling for inside your own company.'  This is doubly important, as many management teams 'do not do a good job of aligning objectives or priorities'. This can lead to salespeople feeling that the internal sale is often harder than the external sale.  It’s important to foster a strong relationship with the internal client.

As Smith concludes, 'sales is the hardest part of a company.  The reasons are subtle, especially for those not in the profession.  As a CEO, do not underestimate the challenges that managing this crucial component of your business will bring.'