You Say Tomato, I Say Sales


It’s funny.  In many professions, the words “sales” and “selling” are taboo.

If you’re in tech or professional services, you may call it business development, or biz dev if you’re a righteous dude or dudette.  In banking, you may call it BD or even marketing.  You may also “monetize” or “commercialize.”

And the people who do it?  Well, of course they’re account execs, consultants, advisors, business development officers, client evangelists and client engagement specialists.

Anything, please, just don’t use the dreaded s-word.


In the most recent Cirque du Soleil show, my wife and I marveled at Aleksei Goloborodko, a 25 year-old Russian and the circus troupe’s contortionist.  How this young man bends, twists and folds his body seems impossible.

Back to selling, why all the contortions around using the s-word and why does it matter?  It’s true that every culture, industry and company is different in sometimes very significant ways.  However, are the activities that your people pursue to grow your business so different that they warrant a unique naming convention?  Do your clients not know that your biz dev people are, well, developing new business? Aren’t your clients and prospects doing the same thing with their business?


To grow your business, how many of the following activities must you or your people do effectively?

  • Find new clients
  • Expand existing relationships
  • Develop trust quickly
  • Ask great questions
  • Listen for understanding, meaning and feeling
  • Convey value compellingly
  • Focus on the most attractive and likeliest opportunities
  • Gain commitment to move forward

Using cryptic names can risk miscommunicating your intent internally.  And isn’t there enough of that already?

When some people hear that what they do is something different from “selling,” it gives them license to not do the activities above — effectively or consistently.  Is that a pattern you see?  How does this affect your bottom line and what can you do about it?


What if you just owned it?  In addition to delivering great solutions, why not be clear that to grow your business:

  1. Your firm has salespeople. To find and close new opportunities with clients and prospects, you need salespeople.
  2. Your salespeople sell.
  3. Selling isn’t dirty. Given how tough it is to do well, selling is worthy of respect.
  4. Selling skills must be developed. To win against able competitors, your people will need to keep getting better to accomplish your aspirations.

You say tomato.  I call it selling.  Whatever you call it, if you want to drive growth, there is no need for contortions.  Be clear and consistent in your messaging, build a team with the right stuff, and support them to do their important work.  If you’re not sure how to get started, I can help you get there.


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