About a year ago, we were talking with our editor Donya Dickerson at McGraw-Hill about some of the seismic changes that have occurred in the past decade since we wrote the book How to Hire & Develop Your Next Top Performer.
The conversation was far-reaching, touching upon how the widespread use of the Internet and social media have broken down business barriers, increased customer empowerment and made old ways of selling obsolete.
And questions arose.
As consumers, we now have access to more information, faster—and feel, as a result, that we can make many of our buying decisions without ever talking with a salesperson.
But are we better informed?
We seem to think so. Statistics reveal that in those cases where we eventually do speak with a salesperson, two-thirds of our buying decision is already made.
Which leads to the questions: What is it that separates the best salespeople from the rest today? And what do the best salespeople still have today that they’ve always had?
As a result of that conversation with our editor, we decided it was time for a newly-revised version of our ten-year-old book. This new version, which has just come out, focuses on the fundamentals that still apply, highlighting the personality dynamics that Herb uncovered a half-century ago—while also sharing what we’ve learned about the changing world of sales.
What’s the same? And what has changed?
One thing certainly remains the same: To succeed in sales, it is all about trust.
You don’t have to be incredible. But you do have to be credible.
Do I trust you? Do I think you know what you’re talking about? Do you convey expertise? Do I believe in you? Do I feel that you will come through? And follow through?
Trust is something that is either there or it’s not. It’s an either/or.
None of us is even vaguely interested in buying something from someone we don’t trust.
The need for trust remains fundamental.
So, what has changed?
To remain competitive, sales leaders and sales representatives need to have a clear understanding of how the buying habits of their clients are changing, and realize that how they succeeded in the past may have very little to do with how they will succeed tomorrow.
One of the things that is clear is that salespeople who sell transactionally bring somewhere between little and no value. The only thing they bring is the inconvenience of standing in line to pay them. Technology will replace them.
As an approved vendor, you’re nothing special. You’ve just made the list. The company can buy from you. At the end of the day, though, there’s no real difference between you and anybody else. Sales at this level can be as automatic as my purchasing computer talking to your selling computer.
The best salespeople, on the other hand, bring real value—by challenging us, by opening up new possibilities, by bringing insights that would have never occurred to us before.
The future belongs to consultative salespeople who can contribute unexpected and valuable insights to help clients solve – and even identify – problems.
As a trusted partner, your clients view your contributions as a key to their long-term success. I want to underscore that selling consultatively has nothing to do with what you are selling. It is about how you are selling, how you are connecting with your clients. In the book, we tell stories about clients who were selling commodities, such as chemicals and paper, but they succeed by connecting and coming through for their clients consultatively.
You can tell you’ve made it as a consultative salesperson when, around this time of year, your clients invite you to meet with them to discuss next year’s goals. When you are a resource for strategic planning, then you have become consultative.
And if you’re not being invited in, you should be concerned.
The future belongs to those who sell consultatively. To those professionals who are intrigued by working with their clients, with getting them to open up, with challenging them and helping them to solve problems—problems that sometimes they may not have even realized they had.
Not only are the best consultative salespeople solving problems for their clients today, but they are also looking for issues that their clients are not worried about right now that they should be.
The best consultative salespeople get a special invitation. They are invited to look at their client’s organization with new eyes. And that view is truly welcome.
As a sales leader, you must be able to identify the DNA your salespeople need, not just the skill set they may have learned.
Do they have the basic built-in dynamics to change the conversations with your clients? Can they move the relationship from a vendor to a strategic partner—from transactional to consultative?
To stay relevant, you should be racing to hire and develop people with these strengths—before your competitors do.
It’s all about who you surround yourself with.
If you’d like to hear Sean Sweeney, President and Chief Operating Officer for the Philadelphia Insurance Company, and Tom Gartland, President, North America, of Avis Budget Group, discussing how their leadership style and approach is informed by the first job they took in sales, watch our latest webinar here: The New Sales Dynamic: How to Hire and Develop Top Salespeople.