Are Salespeople Obsolete? No!

December 11, 2013 Updated: April 24, 2016

Ineffective and poorly trained salespeople are obsolete. Products and services where customers need genuine assistance require highly trained, skilled sales professionals. 

Average producers and hardworking order-takers are poorly equipped to find and secure new accounts. Today’s sophisticated prospects reject back-slapping, talking brochures or slick, disingenuous, manipulative sales techniques. Firms with salespeople at high levels of competence command margins between 10 to 15 percent higher than industry averages.

What buyers want: 

• Products and services that generate or save real dollars
• High-value contact time with salespeople who create genuine value before signing agreements
• Accurate, unbiased, and plausible business cases for their purchase decisions

What buyers typically get:

• Salespeople selling the wrong products and services for the wrong reasons on price alone
• Salespeople asking irrelevant questions followed by an obvious generic sales pitch
• Little, if any, connection to the buyer’s specific needs or wants
• Generic, boilerplate proposals, emails, or Web sites

Quick-fix, technique-based seminars or complex strategic approaches miss the target. Some organizations have long ago given up in frustration trying to elevate their salespeople’s competency. Others know what they are doing misses the target, but what choice do they have? Plenty, and here are a few suggestions. 

• Study the buyer, not the product. 
• Know the application of products and services, rather than specs alone. 
• Listen from the buyer’s perspective. 
• Listen for aspirations and values as well as product needs. 
• Give no prescription without diagnosis. 

Coaching salespeople in real time produces better results than passive learning such as watching a webinar with no interaction with an effective sales coach. Most passive learning is steeped in concepts, but people cannot do a concept. 

The room in which you sit is filled with radio, telephone, and television signals—but you can’t benefit from the technology unless you have a compatible receiver. Similarly, a poorly communicated desired outcome cannot be clearly received. 

Increasing sales, lowering costs, executing a strategy etc. are all concepts. They require the “receiver” to interpret the message, decide what is required, and take appropriate actions.

Dale Carnegie gives us 12 specific ways to gain willing cooperation, such as “dramatize your ideas, throw down a challenge, and appeal to nobler motives.”

Let’s add contrast to these principles. For example: 

“We are moving from a vendor relationship with our clients to one of true collaboration. [These are concepts, so let’s turn them into contrasting pictures.] 

Currently we meet with our prospective customers and give them generic descriptions of our products (services). The questions we ask mostly revolve around technical specifications. Prospects mostly call us for price quotes or specific product orders. We spend time trying to justify our prices and are constantly asked for discounts. 

In contrast, our desire is to uncover our prospective client’s highest aspirations, values, and technical requirements. 

We ask questions, the answers to which, give us a clear picture of what they want and why. When we explain what we can do for them, we clearly articulate a specific application relative to their wants and needs. 

Customers call us not just to solve problems or fill an order, but to engage in dialogue about their current and future requirements. We know how they make money and how our products (services) help them maximize their financial viability.” 

If you were given this scenario, what actions immediately jump to mind? 

This approach gets the creative juices flowing, generating momentum as people see the current reality becoming the desired outcome.