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When Sales People Don’t Change?

by David Brock on November 7th, 2011

“Selling has changed more in the past 3 years than in it’s cumulative history.” states Dave Stein of ESResearch.  I couldn’t agree more, but would tinker with that a little, “Buying has changed more in the past 3 years than in the cumulative history of buying.”  While it may seem a small point, I think it may more clearly illustrate the problem I think is happening in sales.

Depending on which reports you read, this year only 38-52% of sales people will make their goals or quota.  This is down dramatically from previous years.  Undoubtedly, some of it can be attributed to the economy, but I believe that’s only a small part of the problem.  Gerhard Gschwandtner has projected that sales jobs in the US will decline from 18 million now to 3 million in 2020.

Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome.”  Yet this  what we see too many sale people and sales organizations doing.  They continue to do the same thing, over and over at an ever faster pace and greater volume.  But the results don’t change–they continue to get worse. 

So in the midst of profound changes in the way customers are buying, too many sales people refuse to change, doing the same old thing, day in and day out, hoping that good intentions, effort, and a smile will save the day.

When sales people don’t change, two things happen:  First, the customers change who they buy from.  Customer buy from sales people and organization that create value to the customer.  Second, management changes sales people and sales managers–they find those who have changed and can respond to the way customers want to buy.

The resistance too many sales managers and sales people have to change is ironic.  After all, sales is about change–we are asking our customers to change–to select a new vendor, to manage their businesses in a new way, to address new opportunities.

Despite sales being about change, too many think, “it’s for them, not for me.”   Too many resist or are oblivious.  Our phone calls aren’t answered, so we double our efforts, rather than trying to understand what it takes to make an impactful prospecting call.  To some, the solution is to work harder and longer, but we run out of hours in the day, and still our results are declining.  When customer are asking for solutions, too many continue to pitch their products.  When customers are leveraging social media to research and understand alternatives, too many sales people refuse to understand and engage their customers on the web.

What happens when sales people don’t change?  They become irrelevant.  Rather than helping the customer, they slow the customer down.

What happens when sales people don’t change?  They find it increasingly difficult to compete, to make their numbers.

What happens when sales people don’t change?  Management finds sales people who have changes and create value with today’s customers.

Great sales people are completely reinventing themselves.  They continually reassess what works and what doesn’t work.  They adapt new workflows and processes, new tools, new methods.  They recognize that while the basic principles of selling may be the same, the methods we must use to be effective are very different from what has been done in the past.

Great sales people embrace change and in fact drive it, not only with their customers, but within their own organizations. They don’t wait for competition, but force competition to follow.

So the question is, which category do you fall into?

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2 Comments
  1. Amen! Every industry is changing, so why do sales departments think they are the only department that is above revaluation?

    • It is amazing–virtually every other function in business is constantly changing and improving. As an physicist/engineer by training, the practice of design/development has changed profoundly since I left college. No one in the profession would question the value of these changes. The conversations they have are the next level of innovation. Yet, in sales, we have the arrogance to still be doing the same old stuff.

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