Over the past week, I've raised a lot of debate with my Posts On Sales Force Ineffectiveness, Conjecture On The Future Of The Profession:
Over at The Customer Collective, Donal Daly of the TAS Group, suggested we look at developing a Sales Certification platform to start doing something about the level of professionalism in sales. He has been generous in offering TAS Group resources in developing something. Others, Christian Maurer, Niall Devitt, Neil Warren, Dave Stein, Paul McCord, and others have weighed in on the topic.
It may be time to look at sales certification and how we might improve our practice---if only to save ourselves from ourselves.
Many professions are required certification/licensing to practice their professions. Doctors, Pharmacists, Lawyers, Accountants, even certain categories of Engineers are required to pass rigorous studies, testing, and proof of experience in order to practice. These requirements for certification are mandated legally and have central "certifying" bodies that set the standards and administer the certification process.
There are other types of certification that act like "Good Housekeeping Seals Of Approval," and indicate some level of training and experience "certified" by a sponsoring organization. In the IT world, Microsoft and Cisco certified people are highly sought after.
Many other professions offer "certifications," though I, somewhat cynically, think they are more oriented to maintaining membership (while they do have certain knowledge and ethics requirements).
For example, there are "Certified Management Consultant" and "Certified Professional Speaker" certifications. I've actually considered both, but when I start talking to current and professional customers about it, their responses were: "Say what?????" or "Who are they to tell me whether you are any good or not?" of "Never heard of it, who cares!"
There are actually several organizations that offer some kind of sales certification, but I have to admit that I've never asked any of the thousands of sales people I work with every year whether they are certified.
Recently, after all the corporate scandals, there have been people in the government and august organizations like Harvard, proposing some types of certification for executives.
With all this as background, I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about "certification" --whether legally mandated or industry driven. I'm one who believes the tag line of an old joke "What do you call 200 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean.....A good start!" We've seen lots of "questionable" practices by lawyers, accountants, doctors and others. Sometimes it means you jumped a series of hurdles, but it doesn't necessarily make you any better as a professional, more trustworthy, or more ethical.
Others--like the Microsoft and Cisco certifications sometimes seem to have greater value in enhancing a resume and getting a job. There is a level of knowledge, but there are equally knowledgeable, sometimes better people who have not gotten the certification.
And, in my own case, no one has ever asked me whether I am a Certified Management Consultant or Professional Speaker---though a frustrated customer did call me certifiable (reconfirming my wife's claims).
I do think we need to raise the level of professionalism in the practice of selling. I hear this from everyone I talk to--both on the sales side and customer side. While I'm not certain certification is the answer, I don't have any better ideas.
Perhaps we can start another discussion. What do you think? I'd love your comments. Even better, I put up a quick survey to collect opinions and ideas. It will take you no more than 5 minutes to complete. The survey has two tracks: What do we as sales professionals think? What do our customers think? Go take the survey, encourage your peers to take it, ask your customers to take it. I'll report the results in a few weeks.
Here's the link for the survey: Should Sales Professionals Be Certified?
Thanks both for your comments and for participating in the survey!