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Sales is Schrödinger’s Cat

Sales is an art …

Sales is a science …

Sales is a numbers game …

Sales is hard . . .

Sales is easy . . .

Sales is complex . . .

Sales is simple . . .

Sales is simple but not easy . . .

Sales is a process . . .

Sales is about relationships . . .

Sales is challenging . . .

Sales is emotional  . . .

Sales is logical . . .

Sales is consultative . . .

Sales is a language of questions . . .

Sales is just a conversation . . .

Sales is human . . .

Sales is life . . .

Sales is changing . . .

Sales has changed . . .

Sales is dead . . .

Sales is everything . . .

Sales is just one person solving another person’s problems . . .

Sales is . . .

If you’ve been in sales or around the sales profession for more than five minutes it’s likely that you’ve heard sales described in one of these or a dozen other ways salespeople, sales leaders, sales trainers, and executives attempt to categorize sales into a neat little one-size-fits-all box.

Yet, as much as we try to stuff it into that box it will not comply. Sales defies a singular, ubiquitous description. It will not comply with cliches and generalities. Sales is a shape shifter that at once seems ordered and easy to understand and simultaneously is baffling and tremendously complex.

More books are written about sales than any other business discipline. Sales experts abound – you’ll find one on every corner. The experts write books, develop training programs, and give speeches in which they tell you that their “Sales is . . .” is the one true way to success. These experts pander for your attention with proclamations that – “everything in sales has changed;” “buyers have changed;” “old school selling doesn’t work;” and on and on and on.

Each publishing season ushers in a new set of everything-as-we-know-it-in-sales-has-changed-books that attempt to package up “Sales is” with a tidy little bow. New sales training programs are marketed to  C-level executives and Sales VPs who continue on their insatiable, quixotic crusade for sales process nirvana.

Yet, sales refuses to comply.

My library is thick with sales books. Most of them are formulaic facsimiles of the hundreds of other sales books that ply you with a dire prognostication that everything in sales has changed, promise that the information in the book will lead you into sales salvation, and then go on to regurgitate the same shit that you’ve read dozens of times before, disguised with different labels and idiotic acronyms.

This is why so many salespeople and executives are left scratching their heads wondering what sales really is. Sadly, it reminds me of the question that Bill Clinton so famously asked under oath:  It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is?”

The real answer is that “Sales is,” all of the above. There is no single word or phrase that can define sales. This is because Sales exists in an ever changing business environment; is impacted by unique products and services; is transactional, short-cycle, long-cycle, simple, and complex; is local, national, global; is never one-size-fits-all.

Most importantly Sales is woven into the imperfect and unpredictable fabric of human behavior and emotions. This is why Sales eludes definition and why each account, prospect, deal, interaction, and conversation within the sales process are unique. As long as humans are involved, what “Sales is . . .” can never be defined because at once, all definitions are both true and false.

Sales is . . . Schrödinger’s cat.


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