The news is out — Traditional Selling is dead!
Modern buyers have more buying intelligence and research opportunity — and they use it.
A few years ago I undertook a major re-focus in my business. After many years of working directly with client companies, fixing broken teams and building new ones, I felt it was time to 'go modern' and move my business onto the internet and reach out to a wider audience.
I must confess, at the beginning of the change process, I began to feel I was going to need some kind of lobotomy to remove the old fashioned and outmoded principles and processes I have practised for the past 40 odd years which, according to the information I was collecting, clearly had no place in the modern world of the internet!
The rules are still the same.
However, I quickly realized that what I learned, developed and applied all those years, is no different today, internet or not.
Sure, the internet makes a difference — but it doesn't change the rules of engagement, the requirements of people and the emotions of decision making. The internet, after all, is simply a vehicle for reaching potential prospects and giving them information to help them find what they want.
Whether or not we believe the personal element is unnecessary somewhere in the process of creating the sale, largely depends on what we believe the process and purpose are all about in the first place.
Ask any gathering of salespeople, as I have 1000’s of times, to describe the purpose of selling, you'll get varied answers, mostly involving, “making money”, “selling products or services” and “finding prospect’s problems and providing the right solutions”.
Can there be any doubt that the last answer is the correct one?
Do it yourself buying.
If we care at all about our prospect’s satisfaction and want it to be long lasting, the feeling needs to start at the very beginning of the relationship, in other words, they must be absolutely delighted with the sales experience and its results.
We simply cannot leave prospects to search out the right answers alone, particularly when purchasing significant products or services. They need help to properly identify their wants, education to convert their wants to needs and guidance to find the best solutions.
One thing that certainly hasn’t changed over the years is the general attitude towards selling as a function. Most people, unfortunately, view the process and the people involved with suspicion and mistrust. For as long as I can remember, the trend has been to try and sidestep salespeople and use a ‘do-it-yourself’ process.
Who can we trust?
Buying a household product such as a washing machine, for example, now requires us to read the label and make our choice by reading technical details, before finding a counter to place the order. There are certainly very few salespeople in large household goods stores that have the required knowledge to give anything like guidance on the correct solution for an individual customer.
Most purchasers in this situation will use price as their major deciding factor. They completely overlook the need for understanding the correct price is the one for the product that fulfils their needs efficiently, not just the lowest.
The internet, unfortunately, panders to this trend and perpetuates this “DIY” notion.
However, the internet does not mean the death of the salesperson, far from it. For sure it produces more challenges, but those challenges are no different than before the internet came into existence. Indeed, it could be that the internet has created extra incentive, for those that care, to be client-centric and efficient consultants.
Loyal ambassadors — higher profits.
I have believed in, and focused on, the power of client centricity for more than four decades. The power to influence a prospect to comfortably make the correct decision requires total interaction and full engagement. Not only does this lead to highly effective sales, it also produces contented clients who become loyal ambassadors for our businesses — reducing our cost of marketing, increasing the quality and quantity of our clients and positively impacting our profits — and no internet sales process can, or will do a better job for our clients or our businesses!
However, whatever the vehicle that we use to reach clients and complete the sales process, the sales industry must accept responsibility for total client satisfaction. We cannot be happy just making sales — we must make highly effective, client-centric sales, ensuring that prospective purchasers understand the true value of the sales role and seek our advice, not accepting the inefficiencies of DIY buying.
As sales businesses, we must ensure that our client-facing staff are fully trained and continually developed to be a vital component part of our client acquisition process. We must become a go-to solution and an indispensable part of any prospect’s buying process and by doing so, we will be alive and kicking for centuries to come!
I’ll finish with a story:
CFO. “We are spending far too much on staff training”.
CEO. “It’s worthwhile, we need to do it”.
CFO. “But what if we train them and they leave”?
CEO. “And what if we don’t, and they stay”?
and a quote:
“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. “
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