The competencies that were once necessary to succeed in sales have not been eliminated or replaced. That isn’t how evolution tends to work, it tends to transcend and include what came before, making modifications and adaptations, not whole scale changes.
Prospecting has not been replaced by inbound marketing. Inbound marketing has been added to the traditional forms of creating new opportunities. Like all methods and mediums, different strategies produce different results based on dozens of variables.
The idea of closing, asking the client for their business and securing a contract, is still very much necessary, despite any protestations to the contrary. If anything, the evolution of commercial relationships likely includes more commitments than would have been necessary in the past.
If anything has truly changed, it’s the very idea of discovery. Now, in addition to the new outcomes of helping your dream client discover something about themselves (the reason they should change, the implications of not changing, how they should change, the trade-offs they may need to make), you also have to discover who is necessary to a deal and how to build consensus. Do you still need to know what keeps your dream client up at night? I doubt it could hurt you.
Differentiation is more pronounced than ever. You, in fact, are a large part of the differentiation because you are a large part of the value proposition. Your company, your product, and your solution might also be different, but the added value that creates a preference is mostly on your shoulders. Would it help to have differentiation across the four levels of value? Stacking it up isn’t going to harm you, as long as you get things in the right order.
Most salespeople aren’t taught to negotiate, and when they are, you’d think they’re being taught to execute Shuttle Diplomacy ala Henry Kissinger. Even though the largest part of a negotiation in which a salesperson is responsible is about the value each party captures, competition and commoditization has massively raised the stakes.
You can add to these fundamentals things like business acumen, a relatively new modification to the skill necessary in B2B sales. The idea that one knows their business, their client’s business, and the intersection of the two well enough to consult isn’t new, but it is certainly more pronounced—and it is recognized as missing when that is true.
Change management, building consensus, and leading a group of people through the process of change, starting with the decision to do so, is another higher level skill that builds on what came before.
It is likely true that you need to be generally smarter to sell than in times past as it pertains to the complex, B2B sales. Would the client suffer from having a salesperson who was exceptionally good with people and capable of helping them persuade their teammates to change? Would fast rapport and relationships make selling more difficult for either the buyer or the seller? Or might it provide the benefit of being able to work together on difficult problems.
As you read and think about how sales has changed over time, wherever you see an “or,” change it to an “and.” Not much is being taken away, but much is being added.
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