Selling with an Industrial Age Mentality in the Age of the Internet
Most sales problems stem from having an Industrial Age mentality in the Age of the Internet. Most orthodox sales people are using sales strategies that do not take into consideration that because of unlimited access to information clients really do not value their information, insight or their advice as they once used to.
Customers do not need more content, they need more context and perspective, assuming they trust you. But, because sales people are generally not trusted with their impartial points of view, clients are locking them out of critical discussions in the areas where they really could use expert advice.
In order to succeed in this new world order, mainstream sales people need to transition from being data driven to being discovery driven, and explore all the aspects of their customer's business and decision process. Until then sales people will continue to be marginalized.
The following highlight some of the fallacies and illusions of traditional sales people and their sales strategies that are threatening to make them less relevant, or in some cases obsolete.
- Traditional sales people are not aware that one of their top priorities in a sales call is to reverse the traditional flow of information. Instead of giving out information, their job is to get information; preferably sensitive, proprietary and mission-critical information, not just specifications, requirements and information to help them make a sale or put together a proposal. In the information economy if you want to have a competitive edge you must build a business case for change and not just a product case for change.
- They are not aware that a truly credible and believable source discusses the upsides and downsides of their offering. Many sales people are too self-centered to take on a non-selling posture and are fearful of being neutral in their approach. They are concerned that if they lose their enthusiastic and positive approach they will not be believable. What could be further from the truth!
- They have a genuine and authentic desire to be trusted, relationship sellers who really offer value and are customer-centric, but their actions and behavior demonstrate the exact opposite intent, and in most cases they are not even aware of it.
- They do not factor into their sale strategy the single biggest contributor to losing a deal, the status quo. Roughly 70% of all deals are lost to no decision and no change. Traditional sales people spend too much time trying to sell their superior future solution without first understanding what the barriers to change are; no pull, no dough, no time, no means, no authority, no time, no balls (had to throw that in) and no real problems.
- They have a high need for approval. They sell from a position of scarcity, resulting in being perceived as needy and clingy. Remember, neediness is a foul smelling cologne. Neediness and desire for approval are powerful detractors for business relationships. If you question this look no further back than your dating days.
- They have a genetic makeup that predominates in attracting bottom price shoppers. The way you buy will precondition the way you will sell. If you buy on price you will tend to be plagued by attracting price shoppers.
- Sales people's most important sale is to sell the viability and practicality of change, not to sell their product. Too many sales people behave as product placement specialists. It is a strategy that proves as credible as a beauty pageant claiming not to care about pulchritude.
- They are constantly getting the run around from prospective customers who have a genuine, sincere interest to learn more about how the seller can help them improve their operation, but have a passive, casual and passing interest to do anything about it.
- They successfully sell new accounts and they do not know why, and they lose opportunities and they do not know why. They do not follow a predictable sales methodology. They do not feel they have control of their destiny, resulting in a lot of frustration.
- There are huge proponents of needs-based selling. Unfortunately, customers do not buy what they need, they buy what they want. Customers do not buy drills, they buy holes. Too often they are selling in the exact opposite manner that customers are buying.
- They are narcissistic sellers who cannot leave their ego out of the sales call. They are company-centered, product-centered and ego-centered. They cannot get out of their own way.
- They position their solution and offering exclusively to generate "yes" responses. However, you cannot define an unconditional "yes" decision without first making a "no " decision available and accessible. Consequently, they get a lot of prospective customers who jack them around and take them down the primrose path, wasting a lot of valuable time, energy and resources.
- The adjectives of neutral, unbiased, balanced and impartial do not enter their realm of thinking when they are selling. They are not viewed as credible because of their strong vested interest in making the sale and being self-oriented in their sales approach.
- They are not inquisitive and curious by nature. Many orthodox sales people do not care enough to really understand their customer's unique buying proposition (UBP). They do care greatly to only get their customers to thoroughly understand their unique selling proposition (USP).
- They do not know how to time and leverage their information and proposals. They prematurely position their offerings to gain interest right out of the gate and they never regain momentum again because the customer now no longer needs their insight. They are not aware that they should leverage and time their information according to when customers are in an optimal position to make decisions.
- They start off sales calls with the wrong intentions. Their intention is to first seek to be understood by their customer, instead of first understanding their customer. You can imagine how popular this strategy is with customers.
- They take things personally that are not personal. It is only business as they say in the mafia! Sales people have too much of their emotions wrapped up in positive outcomes, resulting in over personalization of rejection and a lot of premature sales burnout.
- They place too much faith on closing and not enough on closing out; fish or cut bait. Traditional closing techniques put too much pressure on customers. However, when you seek to get closure (positive or negative news) customers are far more willing to share their point of view. What is far more important than closing is opening a sale. Good openings often lead to good closings. Good closing does not often lead to good closings.
- They often get "yes to death" because they loath hearing bad news. Customers are killing them with kindness.
- They evaluate, assess and forecast sales opportunities emotionally, instead of rationally and logically; "I know he likes me. I feel good about this one."
- They do not realize that the successful resolution of all problems thru new solutions can possibly bring on a host of new potential problems for customers; that is why people hate to change. They sell as if their solutions do not create any interruptions or disruptions in the existing business processes of their customers. Consequently, they are not viewed as credible sources because they never get to the core of what are the costs of change for their customers. Customers perceive them as blue skying everything so they lose trust.
- They position themselves incorrectly in sales calls. They push, shove (metaphorically) and jockey to best position their offering, its unique attributes and superior characteristics, instead of positioning for trust, respect, rapport and credibility.
- They try to gain leverage by being personal and surface friendly, instead of being deeply personal in their approach to learn about their customer's business.
- They do not realize that selling is just a much as much about buying as it is about selling. Sales people always have to be diligently protecting their resources and time by questioning if they buy into the customer's explanations and justifications for changing.
- Their greatest obstacle to the problem discovery process is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge. They assume too much without rigorously validating, validating, validating. Often they will not ask questions about their customer's problems because they already know the answers to how to fix them. What a mistake!
- They carry a very heavy burden of proof. They do not realize that the more questions they ask to find problems, the less burden of proof they have to carry to ultimately deliver their proof of concept. The more you learn intimately about your customer (challenges, business priorities, most pressing issues) the less they feel they have to learn about your product and solution. It is implied that the sales person with the best understanding of the customer's business will have the best knowledge to help them solve their problems.
||Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.