I frequently read articles in the Sales Press and hear several so called Sales Gurus speaking about the fact that selling has changed, that the old ways of selling do not work any more and similar statements on and around the theme. So is it true?
If I go back many years ago to the time when I was selling other companies products and services, I distinctly recall there being two types of sales organisations and salespeople.
Firstly there were those who adopted very hard sell tactics. Typically they were high figure, one-off sales such as double glazing, fitted kitchens, fitted wardrobes etc., and generally speaking the sales were to the public – the B2C market. And yes – I did work for more than one of those organisations in the distant past.
Those sales organisations still exist, they still use relatively high pressure sales techniques and they still thrive. Nothing very much has changed for them then.
The other market was the B2C market and the B2B market where salespeople wanted and need to establish an ongoing relationship with their customers and continue to sell them products or services on an ongoing basis.
To keep it simple – I believe there were basically two types of salespeople. The successful ones (approximately 15 to 20 percent of the sales team in an average company) demonstrated the following skills and behaviors:
- They always acted with honesty and integrity
- They never sold anything that was not absolutely right for their customer
- They put their customers first and their commission income last in order of importance
- They totally understood their product or service, the problems they could solve for their customers and the opportunities they could help their customers exploit but using their products and services.
- They knew their competition’s products or services as well as or almost as well as their own.
- Their customers grew to trust them very quickly.
- Their own after sales service was superb and they ensured their company’s was too – they took responsibility for it.
- They had excellent communication skills.
- And of course they had excellent sales skills.
The unsuccessful salespeople (80 to 85 percent of the sales team in an average company) did not exhibit these skills and behaviors.
There are of course several other things I could add to that list but you get the picture.
So what’s really changed about selling?
Answer – very little indeed!
Of course sales and marketing are inextricably linked and that is where the real changes have taken place. Nowadays the customer or potential customer is generally more informed than ever before and can rapidly check out you and your competitors in the market place. They can find out more about a salesperson’s background, image, experience, reputation etc., through social media sites as they can investigate their company on the internet. There is nowhere to hide. But if you are a great salesperson and you work for a great company delivering great products or services , why would you want to hide?