At the start of my training courses, I typically ask participants how comfortable they feel about the way they sell. I ask for example, ‘would you buy from you?’ Following a thoughtful pause, most admit ‘humph maybe not’. Very few say ‘yes absolutely’ and others say nothing.
Of the countless people in B2B that I know that sell, be it full-time or just some of the time, many if not most, have at least some discomfort doing what they do. Now that’s not empirical research of course, but I’d argue there is ‘smoking gun’ data that points to that.
Google ‘sales stats’ and you’ll discover, for example:
It takes B2B salespeople on average, 8 calls to get an appointment and 10 years ago, it took half that. 75% of their emails go unanswered and 80% of Buyers don’t want to see a Seller until they’re about to decide, much too late for the Seller to be of any influence. There’s any number of stats just like that and the trends are worsening.
Fact is, Sellers hardly get the open arms treatment.
That’s not surprising perhaps when surveys of trusted professions consistently rank Sellers at the bottom. Buyers don’t trust, nor do they value salespeople (if you thought a person could be of value, you’d return their calls, wouldn’t you?).
Even in ‘non-sales’ environments, for example the professions – legal, accounting, engineering and so on, for those who do ‘sell’, the thought for most of being ‘in sales’ or being a ‘salesperson’ is anathema.
Not so many years ago most Sellers were called Sales Representatives, today they’re called BDM, Account Executive, Account Manager, Territory Manager etc, anything but ‘sales (something)’.
Brief Aside: I acknowledge I’m generalizing here. There are many exceptions of course, including myself. And that’s the point of this article. I’m keen to hear of other experiences, positive and negative.
As if that’s not enough, to be called a ‘typical salesperson’ is hardly flattering. Why is it so? Why, if they’re to have credibility, do salespeople need a job title that says anything but that?
Can it be that Sellers are somehow inherently dishonest and without value? No of course not. They’re little different to any other cross-section of society.
We do know the answer. It’s not who Sellers are or what they do that’s the problem, it’s how they do it. Their 20th century sales techniques have reached their use-by-date and the 21st Century is heightening the flaws.
There once was a time where Buyers relied upon Sellers as a principal source of information on approaches to addressing their challenges. However, the Internet changed that and caused a shift in power from Sellers to Buyers. That’s a well-documented story that doesn’t need repeating here. Suffice to say, selling is getting harder, because buyers today don’t want to be well, sold. They don’t need what Sellers have traditionally done.
We know what the fix is. There’s even a term for it: Sales Transformation, which broadly means transitioning from product-centric to customer-centric sales methods. It’s about working cooperatively with Buyers to understand the value they need and collaborating with them to create solutions that deliver that. It’s not about pitching your product/service.
That’s easy to say but harder to do. However, I’ve not had push back from a single Seller on the idea of Transformation. It makes absolute sense to them. They are often Buyers too after all, and like other Buyers, they don’t generally enjoy being sold to, which you could say gels with my comments at the start.
That said, Transformation is progressing more slowly than most organizations want. Although, it might not be Transformation they’d suggest they need, so much as an improvement in sales effectiveness. Is there any other way to achieve that though?
In any event, we all know that change is hard. However, the business case for Sales Transformation is compelling and it seems there’s no lack of desire, which is what typically stifles change. So, what are the barriers? I’ll be exploring those in a further article.