Has selling changed? Will the latest tech and approaches help?
by John Chapin
When I started my sales training business I used to speak to some sales groups for free. Two days before one of those speeches I got an e-mail from the sales manager saying that the salespeople wanted to spend the time in their next sales meeting learning how to use a new software program versus listening to a speaker. She said the new software program promised to double, triple, or even quadruple their current sales. I had a similar experience while cold calling when a sales manager told me that he was holding off on sales training because they had just put a new CRM in place and were beginning a new marketing campaign. Recently I got an e-mail saying, “Use the latest OGM Approach to recession-proof your sales team”.
We also hear repeatedly that selling has changed so we need to change our approach. These are ideas such as “new relationship selling”, “peer to peer” selling, “customer first” selling, and even the sales book where they added a fifth personality type to address the new sales landscape. Every day it seems like there’s a new tool or new approach that promises to make all your sales issues instantly go away.
Here's what I know about the new tech and new approaches: the new software or CRM, the new marketing plan, the new acronym “OGM” that someone made up to sound sophisticated, and the new approaches will do nothing to transform half-motivated salespeople with mediocre sales skills into stars, or even average salespeople for that matter. And just to clarify, marketing is not sales, there are not four or five personality types, there are 7.3 billion, the best CRM is the one that people use, not the one with the latest bells and whistles, and there is no “new relationship selling”, the best have always sold on relationships, even 50 years ago.
The above examples highlight a particular problem in many sales organizations. Many sales leaders think that the latest technology, tool, trick, or angle is going to increase sales and solve all their problems suddenly and dramatically. As a result, I still see sales managers chasing the latest technology and latest approach thinking it’s going to make their poor salespeople good, their good ones great, and their great ones gods. It won’t. Again, you can’t take a salesperson who isn’t talking to enough people and/or has poor sales skills and transform them into a sales machine with tech, tools, or a new approach. They’ve simply got to be cut out for sales to begin with, and then they’ve got to learn and do lots of the basics well in order to sell effectively.
Be careful when people start talking about tricks and techniques, or start using acronyms that muddy the waters and complicate issues. Einstein said, “If you can’t explain something in a single sentence, you don’t understand it well enough.” Sales is no exception. Sales is simply talking to enough of the right people the right way. Period. So, the real question is: Are your salespeople making enough calls to talk to enough of the right people, and when they do talk, are they asking and saying the right things? Of course, along with plenty of listening.
I think salespeople try to complicate sales because then they have an excuse if they fail, sales leaders complicate sales because it’s easier than looking at the clear, hard facts that their people aren’t selling because they’re either not the right people or they’re not getting the proper leadership and training, and sales ‘gurus’ make sales complicated because they want to stand out in the massive crowd of sales ‘gurus’ and make people believe they have the secret sauce. Well, there is no secret sauce, no magic bullet, and no shortcuts to sales success. And there is no secret tool, magic technology, or new approach or mindset that will correct leadership and training issues and cause the wrong, unmotivated, untrained salespeople to sell at a high level.
What is the solution to all your sales problems? Start by hiring the right people. Next, train them to develop the right skillsets and the right habits. Next, clear the road for them. Your salespeople should be doing sales activities 80%, or more, of the time during prime calling hours. They should be prospecting, presenting, and closing during those key hours, not going to meetings, doing paperwork, installing equipment, servicing equipment, taking basic service calls that a ten-year-old could handle, or doing any other of myriad non-sales-related tasks.
The best salespeople have always focused on getting key sales activities done during the day. They’ve always practiced and honed their sales skills, focused on building relationships, focused on the other person versus making the sale, and they’ve always worked hard and taken the tried-and-true path to success versus looking for shortcuts.
The above said, should you use technology and social media to support your efforts? Yes. Should you try new approaches and strategies? Sure. Just don’t take your eye off the basics, the foundational sales skills and habits that work. And whatever you do, don’t use new tech and techniques as your foundation for selling. Heck, don’t even use them as the icing on the cake. Use both as that extra final touch to go above and beyond and stand out from everyone else. That said, these days, if you execute basic, foundational sales activities properly, that alone will set you apart from 95% of the other salespeople out there.
#1 Sales Rep w 34+ years’ experience, Author of the 2010 sales book of the year: Sales Encyclopedia (Axiom Book Awards) – also the largest sales book on the planet (678 pages).
John Chapin is a motivational sales speaker, coach, and trainer. For his free eBook: 30 Ideas to Double Sales and monthly article, or to have him speak at your next event, go to www.completeselling.com. John has over 34 years of sales experience as a number-one sales rep and is the author of the 2010 sales book of the year, Sales Encyclopedia (Axiom Book Awards). You can reprint provided you keep contact information in place.