Are Salespeople About to Become Extinct?
There’s been much talk about the future of the sales profession. Yet, there are steps salespeople can (and should) take right now, not just to survive, but to thrive!
I was one of the first people in the world to have a Blackberry. True story! And, I’ll never forget the first conversation I had with the Blackberry salesperson. He said, “Lee, get this… Email on the go! People will be able to send you a message and you will be able to send a response. How cool is that?! Forget those pagers that beep and you have to call someone back. You’ll have two-way communication at your fingertips.”
This was a compelling story which is why I had a Blackberry strapped to my belt the very first day the devices were available in the U.S. Imagine that same salesperson calling on me today with that same pitch. “Email on the go…” I’d think he was crazy for positioning “email on the go.” Why? The PDA device is an accepted part of the business professional’s toolkit. We bought into the “email on the go” concept long ago. What question is on our minds today? Which PDA device is right for me? After all, the market is flooded with PDA devices with varying features and functions.
There have been countless articles written on the future of the sales profession with many of the authors concerned about what is to become of salespeople. No one has a crystal ball telling them what the future holds for salespeople. Yet, there are steps salespeople can and should take (if they have not already done so) to, not only avoid extinction, but also to dominate the sales game. Quite frankly, the salesperson in the aforementioned story deserves to fall to the perils of extinction for failing to adapt his style with buyer purchasing changes.
Every industry goes through changes. Not some, every single one! No industry is immune. Yet, the media only tells you about the massive marketing changes that companies make. You don’t hear about the changes that salespeople must make to also remain competitive. Oftentimes, salespeople wait for the corporate tap on the shoulder addressing sales changes rather than proactively making adjustments.
Look at the new car industry. Not long ago, new car salespeople were viewed as Yoda, the wise and knowledgeable being in Star Wars. Those sales people knew everything about the features, functions and deals. Prospects relied on them to share their wisdom so that educated car purchase decisions could be made. What choice did prospects have? There was no way for them to get that information unless it was provided by the salespeople.
We don’t need new car salespeople to play the “Yoda role” anymore. The Internet puts every bit of information (and even more than what the salespeople shared) at our fingertips. As a matter of fact, more and more, people are making their purchasing decisions without ever setting foot in the dealership. They research online and make a buying decision.
If you are a new car salesperson clinging to the “Yoda past,” you probably aren’t selling many cars today. You’ve not adapted your approach with the changes in the decision-making process. As a result, you are in jeopardy of going the way of the dodo.
The Internet hasn’t just impacted the new car salespeople. It has changed selling for every salesperson on the planet! Salespeople used to be able to show up on a prospect’s doorstep and ask, “What is it you do here?” Given that the only way to learn that information was to ask, prospects were willing to share it. Ask that question today and you will quickly be shown the door.
To be successful selling today, salespeople must create value with their prospects…above and beyond what their products offer. That value is often presented in terms of “experience.” The term is often used to describe their tenure with a company or within an industry with the objective of dazzling prospects. Experience is meaningless! Prospects aren’t impressed by it. They won’t buy because a salesperson (or their company) has it. What they want is expertise. Experience means you’ve spent time. It doesn’t mean you are any good at what you do. I’ve seen two-year industry novices develop mastery at levels that blow twenty-year sales veterans out of the water. Those veterans, oftentimes, cling to the “good old days” of selling as opposed to continually shucking and jiving with changes.
Bottom-line, if someone is going to invest his time with a salesperson, he must perceive that he will come away with something other than the “privilege” of sitting through a sales call.
Up to now, everything that has been shared assumes that the salesperson is even able to book a face-to-face meeting with a prospect. There are still many salespeople “dialing for dollars” and finding that their approaches fall on deaf ears. The change in the selling approach isn’t limited to the in-person prospect meeting. The entire spectrum has changed starting at the very first moment of the prospect pursuit.
Imagine. It’s the middle of the night. There’s a pounding at your door. You scramble to put on your robe and rush downstairs to see who it is.
It’s the police! “We want to talk to you about a crime…”
How did they find you? Did they just knock on every door until they found a suspect? Of course, they didn’t. The evidence has led them to your doorstep and that’s why they are contacting you right now.
What if the police’s strategy to solve crimes was to ring every doorbell and say “Hi, did you commit a crime today? If so, could you tell me which one?” No suspects would ever be caught.
As ridiculous as that sounds, this is exactly how most salespeople approach their search for prospects. They start making calls without a “crime theory” which means good luck finding suspects. If you can’t find suspects, you can’t turn them into prospects. No prospects means no sales. That’s a sequence of events that even makes sense to Inspector Clouseau.
There’s an old expression about sales being merely a numbers game. While there is truth in the need for quantity, quality is the ultimate measure. Prospects won’t tolerate being the sales call of the day. Not today! While it is accepted that salespeople hear tons of “no’s” before getting to “yes,” it is exacerbated by poor sales preparation.
Let’s say a salesperson plans to call the CFO of a manufacturing company. The sole objective of the phone call is to schedule a face-to-face meeting. Before ever picking up the phone, this salesperson needs to:
- Research the company by visiting the website and by conducting an online search of it
- Research the prospect’s industry by visiting association websites and by conducting an online search of it
- Research the prospect’s competitors websites and conducting an online search of them
- Research CFO’s to learn their language (terminology), challenges and areas of focus today
By contrasting the information uncovered through this research with the challenges addressed by the salesperson’s product suite, the salesperson is provided with the tools needed to formulate a sales crime theory. Taking a similar approach as the police investigator, the seller answers the question of why that CFO should be interested with this solution right now. If the salesperson can’t answer the question, neither will his prospect. The result – no sale!
Salespeople are often adept at mastering their products, but not necessarily as skillful on the other side of the equation…mastering their prospects. Top salespeople become students of the sales game. This doesn’t mean that they just read sales books. These salespeople master what is most important to their prospects at that any given moment.
There are many salespeople who will not adapt to their new selling environment. Those salespeople will most certainly be run out of the profession. Those who want to, not just survive, but also thrive will perpetually question the strategies and tactics that made them successful yesterday to see if those same approaches will make them successful tomorrow.
No one knows for sure what the future holds for the sales profession, but one thing is certain…
“What made you UNIQUE yesterday,
Makes you a COMMODITY today,
And EXTINCT tomorrow,
Unless you ADAPT to change.”
–Lee B. Salz
© 2014 by Lee B. Salz. Lee B. Salz is a leading sales management strategist specializing in helping companies build scalable, high-performance sales organizations through hiring the right salespeople, effectively onboarding them, and aligning their sales activities with business objectives through process, metrics and compensation. He is the Founder and CEO of Sales Architects, Business Expert Webinarsand The Revenue Accelerator. Lee has authored several books including the award-winning book Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager. He is a results-driven sales management consultant and a passionate, dynamic speaker. Lee can be reached at lsalz@SalesArchitects.net or +1 763-416-4321.