Sales principles and the effect they've had on modern sales
The optimization of the supply chain and advancing technology has radically changed the “vehicles” of selling—instead of selling out of sales bags with a smile and handshake, we now use email, text, teleconference, video conference, and other technologies to facilitate the sales process. How customers feel about salespeople has also changed. Instead of trusting salespeople’s words, the public has learned to distrust salespeople and scrutinize them as “used cars salesman or marketing types.” And finally, the cost of selling has also gone up.
- Improved access to information
- Our reputation precedes us
- Time is money
Let's explore these 3 principles of selling:
1. Improved access to information:
Not only has technology changed how we approach selling from the seller’s perspective, it has changed how customers approach the sales process as well. Technology has commoditized virtually all products by creating open access to the free and almost instant flow of information. Because customers have access to so much information about so many products, who carries them and the real costs, most sales have been stripped down to a transactional model.
2. Our reputation precedes us:
When sales managers demand an increase in the volume of prospects coming through the sales pipeline, many salespeople rely on the “wind shielding” technique. Wind shielding means the salesperson drives through their patch and literally takes visual note of prospective client’s names on buildings and then adds them to their 90-day pipeline. Sometimes they may stop for a cold call, but more often they just follow up and prospect by phone. The idea is to drum up as many potential leads as possible to push through the calls + demos funnel.
“Drive-by selling” occurs when products are so much in demand they sell themselves. When a prospect calls for an appointment, the salesperson responds with a variation of, “I only have time for one sales call, so we can do the demo and then you can submit your order or we can take the order now and I can come do the installation.” For many technology companies this was the hallmark of their Kool-Aid days in the late 90’s. A more figurative type of drive-by selling occurs during a sales call when a salesperson focuses only on getting a prospect to buy. They aren’t interested in building true relationships, they aren’t interested in problems the customer needs to solve, they aren’t interested in objectives the customer needs to achieve; they are only interested in getting the customer to say “yes” and to sign the contract. Related post: Top 5 Traits of Experienced Sales Advisors.
In leadership this type of mentality manifests itself in “leading by checklists” wherein a leader meets their leadership requirements by completing the requisite number of tasks mandated to them by human resources—e.g. have a career development discussion with each of your direct reports, complete an annual succession plan, complete an employee satisfaction survey. They perform these activities just enough to satisfy the minimum requirements before going out looking for more Kool-Aid!
3. Time is money:
Selling can be a labor intensive and therefore a costly process for the company—and for the customer since many of these costs are passed through. Simply put, selling in the traditional way requires both people and time: people to do the selling, and time to walk through all the steps of the sale. When you consider that this is a numbers game and that a certain percentage of sales prospects never progress beyond just being a prospect—well, you begin to get the idea that not all the time spent in sales equals the same result.
This isn’t just a sales problem… it’s a leadership problem as well. In today’s world where there is so much pressure for short term results, leaders analyze how they spend their time by commercial measures as opposed to intangible measures with returns that come in the way of employee and customer satisfaction and loyalty. Unfortunately, in this all too common scenario, customer and employee relations are put on the backburner for more transactional activities.
The question of how technology changed leadership is about transparency. The expectation of open information doesn’t end at the office door. What people experience in their daily lives, they also expect to experience in the workplace. In today’s world, leaders have to learn to be forthcoming with their rationale behind decisions, they have to be clear about their strategic intentions and they have to be willing to have two-way communications.