Why is Sales a Dirty Word?

Published, 3 years ago

Sales are the very heartbeat of any organisation. Without sales there wouldn’t be an organisation. If a business doesn’t sell, it simply doesn’t survive.

Why is ‘sales’ such a “dirty word” in most organisations? So the mystery is, why do people, whose primary focus is to sell, avoid using the word “sales”?

Account Manager, Client Services Manager, Client Relationship Manager, Growth Manager are all job titles that we are familiar with. Each of these titles is a mask for a sales role. Why hide the central purpose of your job function behind a misleading title?


If I had a burst water pipe at home, I would search online for a Plumber, not a Liquid Flow Engineer. Similarly, a toothache would involve a trip to the Dentist, not an Oral Assessment Manager.

I find the apparent reluctance to address sales head-on bewildering and difficult to understand. Most sales people would say that, as an HR professional, I know little about sales. I can almost hear them… “What do you know? You work in HR; you don’t understand the complexity of the relationship we have with clients, the client journey or how sales is inextricably linked to marketing and client services. It’s not as simple as you make it out to be, Colin. Clients don’t like to deal with sales people; they don’t like to feel they are being sold to”.

Whilst I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of the sales journey, I do understand that at the end of the day, the objective of a salesperson is to sell a client, a solution.

So why is sales a “dirty word”? and what can be done about it?

Well, sales is a rather “tacky” word – it’s blunt and a little coarse, it perhaps implies confrontation; do you want to buy it or not? Most people are naturally conservative and as buyers of products and services we have a natural and instinctive aversion to being sold to. Far better to mask it behind a softer title.

It’s not a word that sits comfortably in a multi-channel marketing-centric world. It’s “old school”.

Secondly, by not using the term “sales”, it’s possible to hide behind failure: “The reason I have not hit budget is that I’m not a salesperson”.

By denying the primary purpose of the role, you’re giving yourself an excuse to fail and that’s even before budgets and targets are set.

Although there are many more, these three are, I think, 3 fundamental things to consider to remove the stigma of the word sales from your organisation”


1) Recruit people with the right mindset as much as the right skillset. Skills can be learnt, mindset cannot. Salespeople should see themselves as problem-solvers; they are there to provide solutions. They are an essential part of the organisation they are selling to, as without them that organisation could not exist.

2) Build sales into the DNA of your organisation, starting with the recruitment process and most definitely during induction. Address this from day one with all new recruits. Acknowledge the importance of the sales function in the organisation. And it’s not just about the sales team. Almost without exception, every role in an organisation encompasses an element of sales, and even where it doesn’t, the importance of sales should be understood by all employees irrespective of their role.

3) Provide plenty of training in both sales techniques – how to sell – as well as product training. It is often the case that assumptions are made about the degree of knowledge the salesperson has and consequentially insufficient training is provided, particularly concerning the product or service that is being sold.

Employees should be encouraged to “think sales” in everything they do.

Training gives confidence – how can you be expected to sell when you don’t know what you are selling or, worse, how to sell. Sales training should be an activity of continual reinforcement, guidance, coaching, mentoring, retraining, and confidence-building.

I’ll conclude this article with a statement. A statement that all salespeople should have as their screensaver or clearly visible on their workstation. A statement that reminds them that they work in sales.

Sales is not a “dirty word”. It’s a vibrant, pro-active, positive word. It’s the key in the ignition of any business, it’s what drives the business, it’s the lifeblood of the business. Without sales there would be no business. Everyone should be proud to work in sales.


Colin Lock, Managing Director UK


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