A New Approach to Sales… It’s Called Management!
In today’s rapidly changing economy, it is remarkable that we still attempt to sell products and services in the same way that we have for over 1,000 years. Even as online shopping is taking out the need for brick and mortar stores, sales is still defined in one particular way. It is “a transaction between two parties where the buyer receives goods (tangible or intangible), services, and/or assets in exchange for something of value, usually money.” In essence, the buyer wants or needs something, the seller has something that the buyer wants or needs, and there is an exchange. So, the essence of selling is finding out what the buyer wants or needs, placing a value on it, and making it available. No value, no sale!
The focus of selling is on the “product or service” and its “value.” Defining both of these is driven by the exploration of “pain” the buyer is experiencing. The greater the pain, the greater the desire to buy. The seller of today simply becomes the doctor that writes the prescription. The doctor’s job is to convince the buyer, directly or indirectly, that they currently do or will experience pain… excruciating pain, so much pain, that the buyer cannot overcome it by him or herself. And, even in the era of the Internet, that pain can be identified and magnified if we focus in on the buyer and not the seller.
Gerhard Gschwandtner, the founder and publisher of Selling Power magazine offered:
“Take a moment to think about what the word ”selling” means to you. Every time I ask sales executives to define ‘selling,’ I get answers like these:
Selling is a process of persuasion to get a prospect to take action.
Selling is finding a need and filling that need.
Selling is an exchange of goods or services for money.
Selling is walking the road of agreement with the customer.
Selling is an art.
Selling is a science.
Selling is a transaction.
Selling is relationship building.
Selling is a consultative process.
Selling is hustling.
Selling is all about trust.
There are as many definitions of selling as there are stars in the sky. Everyone has a different definition of the word selling.”
The most effective sales people have defined what selling is first before they go out and sell their products or services. With the knowledge of this definition, they can then be introspective and choose the process that best fits their talents, skills, and experiences. Remember however, in the end it is about “the doctor uncovering the pain and writing the right prescription.” Selling something that does not address the pain is malpractice.
And selling is all about relationships — developing and nurturing trust and confidence. If we did not have trust and confidence in our doctor, we certainly would find another one. If we really focus on the relationship, then chances are that we will focus more on establishing a meaningful, emotional, and cognitive connection with our customer than on the hard sell.
What if we viewed “sales” as simply “managing” a process that leads to an outcome, an expectation, a result? What if instead of teaching sales people the techniques of sales, we instead taught them how to manage relationships that have the best potential of being successful? What if we simply focused our sales people on becoming doctors of pain with a prescription pad?
Gschwandtner says “There is a better way of looking at selling. What we think selling means isn’t relevant. What the sales manager thinks selling means isn’t helping anybody sell more. What we think doesn’t matter, as much as what our customers think and what our customers expect from a salesperson. We can’t freeze salespeople into a definition and expect them to warm up to a prospect.”
What we may need to acknowledge and cannot deny is that the Internet has shifted the power from the seller to the buyer. We have shifted from a delay economy to a real-time economy. We have shifted from a predictive approach to an adaptive approach. We have shifted from pitching deals to co-creating solutions with customers based on their pains.
Today, a customer can find anything they want on the Internet, purchase it in less than five minutes, and have it delivered the next day — products and services. While Amazon.com is the big guerrilla, there are others developing and/or implementing platforms that are similar and pose competition. The customer wants and seeks convenience, quality, and speed. And, in some cases, the customer is more knowledgeable about what’s in the marketplace then the seller is. No longer is it a ride to the mall and a half day of shopping. No longer is it going to the supermarket and filling up a basket. Shopping today is measured in minutes not hours. The basket we are using is the cart icon at the top of the webpage.
In the Peter Drucker era, companies created customers. In the real-time economy, we have to co-create with our customers. At the heart of selling is value — the value as defined by the customer’s unique situation. “Value” is therefore what we need to start defining as the real process of sales and not get hung up on the tools and techniques of the past. The dynamics of selling will continue to shift as the guerrillas play out their hand. In the future, it will be the customer who creates our companies. They are already doing so in so many areas of our lives by their demands, wants, and needs. Just ask Amazon!
Gschwandtner says “Part of good selling is learning up front how our prospects want to buy. If customers want to buy online, we need to offer that choice. If prospects want a simple transaction, don’t go through your relationship mating dance. If a prospect has mapped out a more scientific approach to the buying process, match your selling style to the prospect’s buying style. If prospects want more creative ideas that lead to an artful solution to their problems, tap into your artistic side. Sell the way your customer wants to buy. If you are in doubt about what selling means, just ask your customers. If you want to learn how to sell better, ask your customers…”
Those that will successfully sell products and services in the future will not be called “salespeople”— they will be trained and called “sales managers” responsible for “managing customers” and not sales. The sale will naturally come. So, what are you?