Why We Need to Stop Selling the Way We Sold in the Past

By Gerhard Gschwandtner

As the recession drags on, I hear more sales leaders complaining about their inability to increase sales by relying on tried-and-true strategies for creating value for their customers. What they overlook is that selling has fundamentally changed, and pursuing the old tried-and-true tactics results in more of the same: higher stress and lower sales.

The recession is a powerful teacher who raps the knuckles of those who have not learned that selling has changed forever. The keys to sales success can be found by observing the new cognitive platform that has been created by the Internet. Here are the major trends that scream, “The time to adapt is NOW!”

We’ve entered a “conversation economy.” Conversations drive commerce. The Internet is the conversation platform. Prospects talk to each other on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter; they read company blogs; and they join online communities. Action idea: Join the conversation – go online.

Transactional selling is moving online. In the next three years, more than 3 million transactional salespeople will lose their jobs. Just this week, a CEO told me about his decision to purchase a $400,000 single-engine plane. He moved his buying process online and found every detail he needed to know without speaking to a salesperson. Action idea: Add a shopping cart to your Website, even if you sell big-ticket items.

The definition of selling has changed. We can no longer dictate how prospects buy, and we can no longer act as if we know what’s best for the customer. Such terms as “solution selling,” “value selling,” and “consultative selling” sound good, but they no longer matter. What matters is what the customer wants. If customers want a transaction, build a transaction model online. If customers want a relationship, then offer a relationship. Action item: Match your sales process with your customer’s buying process.

The world is moving toward a process of collaboration and cocreation. Wikipedia is a shining example of how millions of people speaking in more than 250 languages share their collective knowledge. This model applies directly to the most effective sales process available today. Action item: Replace pitching with cocreating.

In the past, authorities aggregated and dispensed knowledge. The communication flowed from company silos to the customer through the salesperson. Today, most of the information needed to buy is available online. Action items: Make buying easier and create a community that contains your knowledge assets and allows social networking for all users.

There is a new Moore’s Law. The number of sales-technology tools will double over the next 18 months. There are better tools to generate leads, better ways to engage prospects and manage territories, and there is better technology to manage every step of your sales process. Action step: Renovate your sales technology so you can accelerate your sales. If you don’t like that change, get ready to be irrelevant.