Reputation of sales people has rapidly decliened over the past few year. 20 years ago the sales teams were celebrated heroes in almost all businesses in the western world. Highly skilled and well trained sales people brought a lot of business which was responsible to drive the growth of the respective company. In the 70’s and 80’s the sales teams learned a lot of new techniques such as reference selling, solution selling, they learned to be a facilitator between customer and the experts inside the company they work for. They were wining and dining their clients, and learned to please the customer no matter what. What a great situation and pleasure to buy. But that was going to change:
Moving from friend to enemy
Increasing competition, globalization, margin pressure, profitability requirements, growing organizational overhead, reduction in innovation, reduction in education, extremely complicated or automated processes and much more put more an more pressure on sales people that they actually moved from being the clients friend and partner to be the enemy – with more pressure to sell than to please.
Changing Buying Patterns
Changing customer behavior, and different techniques in making an ‘educated purchase decision’ is in part result of the above and in part the result on the pressure on the buy side. Buyers are better educated than ever before – while that is no news – today they are better educated than the seller and often times even their internal experts. With all the changes: One Thing Did Not Change At All: The sales process
In most businesses the sales process is what it was 20 years ago: Lead generation, lead qualification, exploring who is the decision maker, is there a project and a budget… yade yade yade. Every kid knows that. But there is absolutely no match to the buy process anymore. Ironically, even social media people often use traditional sales techniques – simply because they just hire some without even thinking about the new world they created.
Social Selling – an alternative?
We need to bring sales in alignment with the new buying paradigm. We need to create that comforting partnership between buyer and seller – but we cannot go back to “the old days”. We need to do much more with much less and still provide the same service. Social Selling may actually bring that solution to sales teams who desperately need not a little – but a big change. Social selling means you deal with twice as many clients per sales person and have a relationship strength that is twice as strong. Sound impossible? Not at all. Over the past two years we experienced a lot with social selling techniques and today we would not get back to the old model – under no circumstance. It lead to the development of a sales process and training with an interesting condition: “You will make more money following the new social selling techniques than you invest to acquire those skills – and if you don’t you get 100% of your money back.” If it is true that we need to do much more in much less time than we also need to be able to reduce the sales cycle. And as a matter of fact, attendees at the program will actually be selling while they are in the training, applying the social selling techniques. If somebody would not be able to land a deal during the 5 week training, despite following the new techniques, the person would get the money back.
Dramatically reducing the sales cycle
Already two years ago a sales research institute came with a result, which was rather unbelievable back then, sales cycles are much shorter now. An analysis showed that sales people are rarely involved in the enter buy cycle. Once customers made up their mind the sales cycle actually started and was rather short. That has a huge implication on sales doesn’t it? Instead of rambling along with people who are not in the market sales need to focus on those who “made up their mind”. And rather hoping to be part of the decision making process, sales only need to know when that is happening and being helpful to those who prepare that decision. Without going too much into details, a modern day sales cycle is less than half of what it was and that is more helpful than threatening to sales if the team understands the whole process.