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Buyers Aren’t Killing Sales, Sales People Are Killing Sales!

by David Brock on April 4th, 2017

I get so weary about the endless drivel about the “Death Of Sales.”

Ironically, I never see a post from customers/buyers—even procurement—about the death of sales, though I’m sure many would appreciate it  (a variant of “What do you call 600 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean” joke  —If you don’t know the answer, it’s “A good start!)  Al the posts seem to come from sales “gurus” and technology suppliers, perhaps foreshadowing their own demise.

What’s killing sales isn’t the buyer.  It isn’t their ability to self educate, to engage other buyers in social conversations, or even to process their buying transaction electronically.

What’s killing sales is the inability, perhaps unwillingness to respond to the way buyers are buying.  Like every job in every industry, the work that needs to be done by sales professionals has changed profoundly.  However, unlike most other roles, sales people seem unwilling to do the work that needs to be done.

What’s killing sales is sales people and leaders unwilling to do the work of selling!

Rather than change, adapt, and respond to what buyers really need, and the value we can create in helping them buy, too many are stuck in the same old methods.

We know and encourage buyers to self educate on the web.  Yet sales people constantly focus on pitching their products.

We know customers struggle with buying, yet none of our programs or activities focus on helping them learn how to buy, or helping them align the diverse interests in the buying group.

We know people buy from people, yet we create assembly line/transactional processes.  We focus on maximizing sales efficiency rather than buying effectiveness.

We know that we have to research, prepare.  We have the capability and tools to deeply personalize every contact, every email, every interaction.  We know buyers crave relevance.  Yet the majority of our marketing and sales programs are far from this, instead focusing on volume/velocity.

We know they new buyer engagement requires new skills and competencies.  But how many of our sales training programs focus on curiosity, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, value creation (Only one that I’ve seen in my experience).  Instead, we focus on the 101 creative email headers, or 2056 ways of closing a sale.

We know we have to create and deliver value to our customers, but few sales people start with trying to understand what customers value.

We know, we know, we know……. Yet we remain fully committed to what worked yesterday, but no longer is even relevant to buyers today.

If we have a growing global economy, if we have an economy of any sort—-there will always be buying  (that’s kind of a fundamental of economics).  And buyers struggle with buying!  If there is buying, there will always be a need for selling!

It is not changes in how customers want to buy that is killing sales.

It is the unwillingness and inability of sales professionals to change the way they sell that will kill sales.

Something will sweep in to do that function, customers still need the help.  Why not make it sales?

 

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4 Comments
  1. I speak with reps and their customers every day about what prevented buyers from investing in solutions. It’s 99.9% true (not half truths) that buyers are self-educating and it’s resulting in reps being called later in the process, more and more RFP’s, forced deep discounting of very competitive 11th hour deals and in many cases, no decisions where more choice and information leads to more in-depth research.

    These are the same problems that sales reps have always had to deal with, there’s nothing new, except that these problems are happening more often and in some cases all the time. That’s new.

    The biggest frustration I hear from the reps is that these buyers have pretty much narrowed down the contenders, formed strong opinions and already made dozens of decisions about their purchase before they ever call the rep. Doesn’t leave the reps much wiggle room.

    Buyers tell me they disqualify a lot of vendors and abandon deals because they can’t seem to make sense of all the information or that they just couldn’t translate all the jargon and technology babble well enough to be able to match their specific requirements. Your last mile issue.

    The really interesting piece, and I hear this over and over again, is that the winners ARE getting called earlier in the process; they just seem to speak the buyer’s language and understand their problems better than anyone else.

    I think this reflects well on the companies that are replacing all the guesswork and assumptions about prospective buyers with real, tangible information about what prospects are thinking and doing as they research and evaluate options. The kind of information that marketing can use to influence a buyer’s early opinions and that sales can use to challenge beliefs and influence the final decision. The same message you and Hank constantly try to drive home.

    So yes, I do believe that there will be fewer sales reps in the future, they’ll be the ones working at companies that can’t provide this deep insight and inevitably go out of business.

    • Great observations Gordon, I couldn’t agree more. It’s interesting, too many sales people are pleased to wait until the customer is 57-92% through the process, not realizing it is eliminating much of the value they create, their differentiation, and the only way to win is on pricing. Sales people letting this happen to them become order takers and they will become obsolete—as they should, they create little value.

      It’s the winners those people getting involved early, those people that incite a customer to change where they may not have realized they should, that create distinctive value that thrive in the new world of buying. Ironically, it seems more people are focused on order taking rather than providing leadership to customers.

      I’m not sure what this means for future employment in sales. I do believe those that can’t create distinctive value in the process, that wait for the customer to reach out, whose only value is to ask, “how many, when do you need it, we accept Amex, MC, Visa……” will become extinct. However, the number of complex challenges our customers face doesn’t seem to be diminishing. On the contrary, it seems to be accelerating, so the demand for sales people in those roles will grow. Unfortunately, the demand is likely to exceed the supply.

      Thanks for the great observations Gordon!

  2. Very catchy title. Your article is very spot-on, couldn’t say it any better myself. Buyers today are fast evolving; they do their own research, they are well informed before they do their purchasing. The pressure is on salespeople to also evolve and dance to the same tune as their buyers, or risk getting sidestepped.

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