If you’re still approaching sales in the same way it was done 30, 20, or even 10 years ago, you won’t be successful. To understand how it has changed, let’s back way up and take a big picture, generational view.
Let’s go back 50 – 100,000 years. You need to survive, so you need to prospect and find people with whom to trade goods. You needed a story to tell, and you’re going to have to ask for a commitment to exchange goods. Those are first level sales skills. You still need them, but they’ve been around for a long, long time.
Next, fast forward to the Industrial Age, where we see massive disruption due to mass production. Now, you need to differentiate your offering. It is what GM did so successfully against Ford. Instead of Ford’s “You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black,” GM offered customers choices. They could have a color, and style of car, that differentiated their car from all of the black cars on the market.
With these changes, sales is more complex. You have to differentiate, you have to diagnose, and you have to figure out what people need. And then, you have to be able to negotiate. Because there are different levels of value being created, there are different levels of value being captured to deliver that. These changes require the 2nd generation of sales skills.
At present, we’re in the 3rd generation of sales – on the verge of a 4th generation, because there is another disruption on the horizon. Now you need new skills:
- Business acumen
- The ability to answer the question “why should I change?”
- The ability to lead teams – your team and your client’s team, in the process of changing.
We’re talking about the need for a very high-level skill set, and it’s what salespeople are now required to do.
You say you want to be a trusted advisor. You only need two things to do that: trust, and advice. If you don’t have the advice, you can’t be a trusted advisor. You need business acumen, and you need the ability to help people change. That’s the biggest, most dramatic change in sales, and it’s why people are struggling. They want it to be the product, service, or solution, and it’s none of those things. You are the value prop now. You are what they’re buying. They either believe you and think you can help them change, or they don’t want you on their team.
Photo credit: Irudayam Only a pawn in their game via photopin (license)
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