We all know the role of sales professionals is changing. The sales person used to be an important channel to educating and informing customers about products and services. The wide availability of information on the internet changes this–though it doesn’t eliminate this. Most customers are more informed about products and services. They do their homework, searching the internet, leveraging the opinions of others to select a few alternatives they will consider. What does this mean for sales professionals and their evolving role?
Lately, there have been lots of articles, some contributed by yours truly, about Provocative Selling, improving questioning, creating greater value in helping customers identify opportunities and solve problems. In different ways, I think all these articles point to the future of sales: Sales Professionals Must Become Diagnosticians.
I really like this model. Think about your experience with a doctor–at least a good doctor. Like sales people, they try to identify the pain—but they recognize the pain may be just a symptom–not the real problem. They ask a lot of questions. They perform some tests. They may get some experts invovled. They are searching for the “real problem” and want to propose a solution to that problem. Often, they identify problems we don’t realize we had–but are critical that we fix. Sometimes, they suggest things that can dramatically improve the quality of our lives—things that we may not have been aware of . (I know the cycnical among you are chomping at the bit, this is not a commmentary on our health system, I’m just using an idealized analogy.)
Personally, I’d be frightened of any doctor, that prescribed a medicine or recommended surgery immediately after we “established rapport” in the examining room. rather than pitching/prescrribing a solution, I’d like him to look at me and ask some questions first. Thank goodness, my doctor didn’t accept my self diagnosis of Restless Leg Synrdome (RLS) and prescribe whater miracle drug is advertised on TV. He told me the reason I constantly tapped my foot and shook my leg in meetings was that I was too impatient and recommended I chill out.
Doesnt’ a similar model make sense for sales people? Shouldn’t we be acting more as business or customer diagnosticians? Shouldn’t we be questioning, probing, and testing before we prescribe? If we diagnose a problem that we can’t solve, shouldn’t we be sending them to someone who can? Shouldn’t we focus on the real issue and not just band-aids—after all, we don’t need Doctors for that.
The Sales Professional as Diagnostician means some big changes for the profession. We may need to look for different types of people to be sales people. I think the best are those that are very inquisitive, they are analytic and systematic in making their diagnoses, they are deeply interested in their customers and helping them “get well,” We certainly have to train them differently. We have to build their diagnostic skills. We have to build their business, indsutry, and customer skills—after all, how can they diagnose if they don’t understand these things, how will they be able to diagnose the problem? We will have to evaluate sales people a little differently, we’ll have to look at their ability to correctly diagnoze and treat customers—“killing customers” is certainly bad for business.
Perhaps rather than adopting the Hippocritic Oath, the Diagnostic Sales Professional will adopt the Hippocratic Oath: Salesperson, do no harm.