“Unskilled Sales Labor” or “Business Advisor” – Which role will you choose?

April 18, 2011  |  Posted by in Sales Training

Having grown up in an automotive town, I have never liked the term “unskilled labor,” finding its application to hardworking families like my own a bit insulting. I recently encountered a completely new definition of the term as it applies to sales and business:

“Unskilled labor is what you call someone who merely has skills that most everyone else has.”

If the traditional meaning of “unskilled labor” disturbs me from a personal standpoint, this new definition may disturb many in the broader business community as it pertains to remaining competitive and relevant in today’s changing business environment

Sales Skills matter and make a difference. If your sales approach and skills are the same as anyone else’s, what is special about you or your organization? Why would potential customers choose you, much less pay extra for your products or services? What is your individual competitive advantage? If you can’t answer this question instantly and succinctly, you may be an “unskilled” sales professional, akin to the last person delivering ice to homes in an era of modern refrigeration, with little or no hope of consistently winning in the sales arena.

It’s so easy to blame inadequacies in our organization, management, product or service offering for our failure to close the sale. Not so fast. When reflecting on a sales call, ask yourself, “What was my personal role in the outcome?” Did I really take the time to understand this customer or prospect’s long term objectives and strategies? THEIR customers’ needs? Did I consider the impact of THEIR competition, future product or service introductions, consumer demands and opportunities in my proposed solution? How does their unique competitive environment affect all of these considerations?

The sales professional who fails to understand the customer casts themselves in the role of “unskilled sales labor,” putting them at a distinct disadvantage against anyone who is doing their homework.

What can make a difference? Currently there is a lot of talk about the need for the sales organization to become a true business asset to their customers. The buzz is warrantedYour transformation to being a Business Advisor will add authentic value that reaches beyond the scope of mere products and services. A Business Advisor brings a deeply networked collaboration to the customer. They facilitate synergy inside and outside an organization, paving the way for innovation by both parties. As a Business Advisor, the sales professional is not only a highly skilled, but a highly valued asset with an attitude and approach that clearly differentiates him or her from the competition. This role can’t be assumed; it is earned when a sales professional invests time and energy, networks inside the organization, and explores to gain a deep understanding of the customer.

Economic hardship in recent years has exposed the tremendous gap between skilled and unskilled sales professionals. Have you noticed the “all or nothing” nature of business in the sales area? “Skilled” sales professionals have experienced fluctuations in the size or frequency of orders; but their value to their customers remained steadfast. These are the sales stars who, at worst, rode out the storm with their customers. At best, in their role as trusted Business Advisor, they continued to find ways to grow and help their customers grow. Unskilled sales professionals suffered mightily; viewed as annoying vendors selling goods and services for which customers no longer had budget.

Today “unskilled labor” means “not-uniquely-skilled” labor. What selling skills are you cultivating to ensure you are among the next generation of “skilled” sales professionals? What are you doing to become a Business Advisor?


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