A Funeral for Today’s Sales Force

You’ve all seen it — that nice little Excel spreadsheet with row upon row of features.

Your eyes quickly scan for the dots. Does it work remotely? Yes.
Does it include automatic upgrades? Yes.

Now you’re clicking on the purchase button, and whoosh! The sale is done.

The End of Salesmanship

How great is that? No more lengthy phone calls, no more ‘yes buts’. The highly competitive software world has launched the death of the salesman. It’s tempting to light up the fireworks simply in celebration.

But is it really what’s it’s cracked up to be? Who hasn’t been in the situation where they’ve purchased a product only to find it didn’t really meet their need. Now staff is left scrambling, trying to shoehorn the business into a software product that was never going to fit.

The Buyers Educate Themselves

“The role of the salesperson is no longer to educate the buyer on functionality,” says Mark Stuyt, president of Inspiro Services and an executive sales force coach for SALESWORKS Systems, a Vancouver based consulting firm. “What is needed now are people who have not so much product knowledge, as business process expertise and there is a subtle difference.”

“Buyers can easily see there is only a 5-15% difference between the products,” Stuyt says. “What they need is someone who can identify their particular set of problems and match that with the right product that will deliver meaningful impact.”

“I’ve been buyers get five-day demonstrations, none of it meaningful, all of it confusing,” Stuyt says.

Delivering Value Through Identifying Business Needs

To guard against that, Stuyt recommends business leaders look for:

a)      Deep industry content;
b)      Ability to draw a distinction between business problems and functionality

“If your salesperson can’t do that, then you’re talking to a dinosaur.”

While that may sound straightforward, developing this new breed of salesperson isn’t easy.

Self-Education Can Be Misinformation

Enzo DiMichele is the managing partner of Absolute Coaching and an executive sales coach for SALESWORKS Systems; he has been training salespeople in the technology sector for more than 25 years.

The point and click world has created purchasers eager for the simple solution. Even with massive ERP projects, they’re mentally searching for that nifty spreadsheet, so they can make that fast decision.

“Buyers are getting to us further along in their decision process and it’s making it more challenging,” DiMichele says. “Meanwhile, sellers don’t treat each lead with the amount of due diligence it needs. They skip off the top. What they’re doing is commoditizing, and as a result, they don’t really understand quickly enough what the root causes are of the issues.”

Partnering with Informed Solution Reps

What’s really died, and isn’t coming back, is the salesman who sees each prospect as an opportunity to be hunted down and bagged with a “just buy the damn thing” mentality.

Instead it’s been replaced with a modern approach of working alongside the prospective client, helping them gain a better appreciation for what they need and how different products might best be able to address the challenge, says Ross Allen, president of The Technical Edge and co-founding partner of SALESWORKS Systems.

Nurturer the Curiosity

“Salespeople need to know that customers are doing inquiries and research. What they’re really doing when they reach out is they’re casting a net in the early prospect stage. They’re just figuring out they might need something, or they’re not even sure if they do, and if they do, what would that look like. So there needs to be a new kind of salesperson who can deliver that. These aren’t hunters any more – they’re nurturers.”

You know you’re talking to a nurturer when they answer your emails, follow up on your questions, find you the help you need.

“It’s a different personality, a different mindset,” says Allen.

Building the Online Salesman

It also means that companies that are building on-line sales need to have these nurturing types working at all points of contact. They’re potentially now working with 100 prospects at any one time, compared to the more traditional salesperson who juggles no more than 20.

“In this new realm, you’re going to have hundreds of potential clients, and you have to keep track of where each one of these customers are at, what they say next, and you’re going to need the software, the technology, in order to do that.”

The software provides the analytics, so the company knows where to focus its attention, but Allen says the human side is critical.

“People are interested in buying from people, not from machines. They’ll research to death until a human being reaches out and says: I see you. This may take time, but it pays off.”

Are They Interested in Your Business?

The irony in all this is that while it’s so tempting to make decisions based on checklists and analytics, and while technology provides us with more statistics at the click of button than we could possibly ever use, at the end of the day we’re human.

Stuyt says it’s a bit like looking at a dating profile. That stats may all be there, but it really only serves to get the conversation started.

“Ultimately, what everyone is looking for today is a more meaningful two-way conversation — someone who understands me, who understands the specific needs of my business. If they’re not asking about you – your business – there’s something wrong.”

And that makes all the difference in the world.

Image Source: James Patton Funeral

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