Too Many Sales People Succeed Inspite of Themselves
The Internet has undermined the traditional value of sales people and its creative destruction is set to continue. It changes many old assumptions and redefines the source of competitive advantage. Sales people have gone through periods of disruption, but never at this pace. Easy and fast access to information for customers has become a huge liability for many sales organizations.
Most sales leaders grew up in an era of unlimited prospects, high demand, easy access to markets and limited competition. "At no time in history has sales and marketing seen as radical a shift in buying behaviors as in the past five years. With tools like Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, information is now quite literally at our buyer's fingertips. Organizations are having trouble adapting to this change. The concept of sales 2.0 has created more questions than answers as to how sales can leverage new technologies to drive messaging and sales effectiveness. Today, buyers self-educate themselves rendering sales and marketing blind to buyer's interests and propensities. Buyers are less likely to engage with sales people or to read our messaging. Instead, buyers leverage webinars, online meetings and interactive websites and control the sales process themselves," says Rick Page. There is definitely going to be new winners and new losers in the future.
There is a huge gap between today's sales strategies and today's market conditions. Most sales organizations are using sales strategies that were designed for simpler times. Tradition sales people are facing an identity crisis. Their reason for being (information provider) is being neutralized, challenged and compromised. Too many sales organizations are frozen in time as if information is not two clicks away from one's keyboard. Information has widely become free, ranked, targeted and rated, and sales people are no longer a primary information conduit. In the past a lot of the sales role was education and communication was one way. Not today.
There is a certain Darwinian force happening in the digital era; which is doing more with less. Sales people in some cases will be displaced if they cannot create value and relevancy. Showcasing their wares, doing dog and pony shows, giving proof of concept presentations, being a pitch man and doing product placement is not where the future is. Doubling down and providing more information is causing a lot of sales careers to be teetering on the margins.
In the good old days conventional selling was something buyers tolerated. It was a necessary evil. Today, arguably, it represents an unnecessary evil. With the twin forces of globalization and heightened competition and Internet commerce, traditional sales people are out of touch with the times. The biggest competition in the future for one's sales job, maybe another sales person from another continent. Customers are increasingly, directly (Walmart effect), or indirectly, cutting out the fat (sales people) out of the transaction because they are just added weight with questionable value.
"The key to success in the future is to start thinking unconventionally. Convention is the enemy of progress," says Trevor Bayles. There needs to be a fundamental reinterpretation of selling. There needs to be more emphasis on how and why customers change, buy and make decisions; instead of emphasizing how sales people can sell, influence and be more persuasive. The way to stay ahead in today's chaotic economy is not just to learn faster than your competition, but "To unlearn faster than your competition by shedding outdated ideas and ways," says Holly Green.
Selling; its greatest allure is its greatest weakness. Most conventional sales people signed on to a sales job because they had a nice way with people, a way with words, they wanted to make new friends and they fancied themselves as being persuasive and convincing. Today you need to have a lot more. You need business acumen. You need very good questioning and listening skills. You need to be genuinely curious about the dynamics of what would compel the customer to change or not. Customers need more context than content in the information economy and that cannot be achieved online, it has to be off-line, face-to-face. And that will require more skills than ever because society is becoming over communicated, or I would say under communicated. Everyone is dying to communicate with one another so long as it is impersonal and not in real time.
There are so many tools for communication today that are fast, easy, superficial and convenient. As customers become overwhelmed by communication choices they tend to guard more than ever personal space and personal face time. They will only allot sales people this privilege under ideal circumstances. This is what makes the job of selling in the information economy so challenging and rewarding.