Rethinking Sales Today

Today, more organizations increasingly are facing more competition, rapidly changing technology, slower market growth and less product differentiation. This trend requires business development professionals to manage more accounts, build stronger relationships, sell to multiple buyers, and be much more creative thinkers. Therefore, it becomes much more difficult than it used to be to sell … or is it?

I believe that it’s not more difficult, but really just seems that way, because the old way just isn’t working anymore. Well, thank goodness for that. The days of Herb Tarlek from WKRP in Cincinnati are gone. It seems we were “pitching” our wares for a long time, hence the bad reputation of a salesperson. Then there was the other extreme when the economy was so good we often turned into order takers.

What needs to happen is we need to change the way that we sell. We need to change it completely. And what we used to think of as a great salesperson is going to look very different today than it used to. We need to learn more skills. The skills we need aren’t sales tricks or schemes, they are just good old-fashioned, upfront and honest communication skills. Interestingly, most people don’t really understand what that means. Communication skills are the true difference in sales today, but understanding how to communicate is the true skill. To communicate properly and to drive toward a means to an end still involves a process to communicate.

Sales professionals realize the importance of using a sales process to be effective in sales today. Using a process will help you put the decision steps in sequence. And it’s very important to have a sequence. Unfortunately, they don’t really use a process, though they often think they do. To remove the sales tricks of old still requires a true understanding of communication between two people. We often think of that as talking—no, its truly listening. Listening is one of the toughest skills to learn, mostly because most people think they are good at it already. They’re not. It is a truly learned skill that can be applied in all aspects of life.

Before any new skills become a natural behavior, it needs to be practiced. Vince Lombardi once said, “Practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.” And I really like that, because, unfortunately, one of the negatives that CEOs today run into is we try to hire people who have been in sales for a long time so we don’t have to really bother training them. We give them a little training on our product, and we send them on their way. Well, often, people have picked up bad habits. So, we don’t understand after six months, nine months, even a year, why they aren’t hitting their numbers and making their goals.

Why? Because it’s different today.

What’s the purpose of your sales call? What is your goal before you even pick up the phone to call someone? Or even if they call you, what are you trying to get accomplished? ♦

Greta Schulz is president of Schulz Business, a sales consulting and training firm. She is the author of To Sell is NOT to Sell. For more information or free sales tips, go to schulzbusiness.com and sign up for “GretaNomics,” or email sales questions to greta@schulzbusiness.com.

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