This was a question posed at a recent panel discussion I was on. It was to a group of small business owners. I’m usually not a big fan of panel discussions due to the limited time each participant has to speak.
But this one was good…Ben Pidgeon, Barnes & Thornburg LLP, facilitated the event and we had awesome panelists: Jenny Vance (www.leadjen.com), Gary VanDeLaarschot (www.accelerate.com) and Adam Weber (www.GoBlueBridge.com).
Here’s my answer to the question of whether the salesperson is going away.
No, the sales function is NOT going away anytime soon. But, the fact is that selling is changing. Here are my thoughts on how it’s changing and what you can do to cope, whether you’re a sales team leader or front-line seller.
1. Seller Must Offer Insight. You are not an order taker or an order maker. Most of the time, the customer has no earthly idea if they are in need of your solution or not. So, you must offer some form of “insight” to help guide the prospect along. That may be a case study, it may be a list of the trends you see impacting your clients, or it may be an article that you have published that positions you as an expert AND offers value. Don’t just run the prospect through your process. They deserve more than that.
2. A Supreme Diagnoser. A part of the new role of a seller is a diagnoser of what’s wrong. You are in the role of building “dissonance.” Dissonance is described as the gap between where someone is and where they want to be. If you can’t uncover dissonance with your prospect, then their best decision may be no decision. You do this through the diagnostic portion of the process. You NEVER sell during this portion. If you do, all of your relationship capital is spent. Understand what their world is like now WITHOUT your product. And what it could be WITH your solution. That is where dissonance lies.
3. A Process Guide. You are a guide that shepherds the prospect down the path from Awareness to Comprehension to Conviction to Action. No short cuts. If at any point during this process, you attempt to “pitch” your goodies, you’ll be labeled an amateur – no sale. You must know how to maneuver through the buying organization by having a process that is in THEIR best interest, not yours. And you must be adept at laying it out, so they know exactly what is expected of them. It’s hard to suggest they follow your process if you don’t have one they can believe in!
4. A Cause Bigger Than The Sale. You must have a cause that is larger than making the sale and you must be able to tell that story to the prospect. People want to be a part of a larger story. What is your story? What is the company story? And once you tell it, is it compelling enough for people to want to be part of it? Or, does it sound like every other sales person who’s called on them in the last 30 days?
Granted, there are many other changes, some strategic, some tactical. But these four areas are critical to creating a sales team that performs at a high level.
What do you think? What are some of the changes you see in the art and craft of selling? What does the future hold? Let me know in the comments below.