Today's post is by Jeff Seeley, CEO of Carew International, Inc. Check out this Carew International white paper, “Success in the Challenger Sales Role.”
“When it comes to sales, the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
“The sales profession is completely different from how it was five years ago.”
Which of these statements rings true to you? Your answer will depend on your personal perspective and your definition of sales. Both statements are accurate but in very different contexts. When it comes to the sales process and delivery methods, the pace and/or methods of communication, and customer expectations, everything has changed. In contrast, the fundamental role of the successful sales professional (collaborator, consultant, and valued resource for problem solving and revenue and profit growth) and the need for fundamental selling skills (diagnostic skills, interpersonal skills, relationship building and presenting solutions) have not changed. Outstanding sales professionals have always been outstanding business advisors for their customers.
It’s like the critical role of gravity in our physical world: gravity is the strongest natural force on Earth. The way we use it and interact with it (even defy it) has changed tremendously in recent decades, but the fundamental power and force of gravity has not changed at all, nor has our dependence on it for survival.
What gravity is to life on Earth, communication and relationship-building skills are to the sales function. Their application has changed, but their importance has not. George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” I add that the second biggest problem is the self-delusion that we have deeper relationships with our customers than we actually have.
How did we lose sight of the most powerful force in sales? There are two factors: First, at some point, business leaders and the business community started mistaking go-to-market strategies as sales strategies, functions, and skills -- and these are distinct and different entities. Go-to-market strategies are required for long-term success, but they must be integrated into a compatible sales strategy, and typically, the sales team will need a new skill set to implement a new strategy.
Second is “shiny-object syndrome.” Sales leaders looking for the next new thing relative to the sales process become enamored with various “shiny objects,” but they don’t consider their sales team’s current skill set and the team’s ability to carry out the new process. The result is beleaguered sales professionals and frustrated leadership.
The most powerful forces in sales include:
1) delivering insight,
2) challenging the customer’s norms,
3) offering more strategic business advice, and
4) influencing business outcomes.
This is where sales professionals and leadership need to be heading quickly. Suited up in a new sales process without the right skills, sales professionals are like the new human flyers using wingsuits to defy gravity, racing through the atmosphere. When they try to use the parachute to float gently to the earth, “there is no ‘chute.”
Check out this Carew International white paper, “Success in the Challenger Sales Role.”