Enough already everyone! It's true. We don't need salespeople or sales forces anymore. Happy? For buying gas, pizza, airline tickets, hotel rooms, groceries, iPods, etc., we can figure it out by ourselves. But what if it's not for something like that? Some more examples:
The last four times it rained hard, water was streaming over our gutters, staining the white stucco on our home. And water sits near the foundation on the side of the house. Another downspout doesn't direct water away from the front of the home and is causing staining and rotting problems. Should I just go on the internet and order a new gutter system? Should I drive to Home Depot or Lowes and buy some gutter supplies? Can the clerk solve my problem while I stand in the aisle? I doubt it. So I called a gutter company and the owner/salesperson stopped by and helped me to understand the real problem; The home is so big and the size of the roof so enormous that the residential gutters on the back of the home are too small. Solution, replace the rear gutter with larger, commercial grade gutters to handle the volume of water coming off the roof. Simple. But not so simple that I could have solved that problem without his help. He also said he could solve the downspout problems with deflectors. He told me how much and I asked when he do it. If I was the type who shopped around - and I'm not - he would have needed to differentiate himself. He did anyway, but didn't have to.
If I'm purchasing a single laptop computer, and I know what I need and like, I can buy one on line from Dell (transactional sale). If I'm outfitting my entire company with the latest in technology (a complex sale) I'd better have some companies come in and recommend the appropriate solution for our needs (another complex sale).
If I need a marketing company to help with our branding, promotions, image, advertising and public relations (Seth should get this example), I'm not heading to the internet. Instead, I'm seeking out companies that are known to be effective at this, interviewing them (salespeople) and choosing not the one with the best price, not the one who is closest, not the one that has the most awards, not the one who has experience in my industry, not the one who can do it the quickest, and not the one who has the friendliest salesperson. I'm choosing the one who best understands my problem and can give me the most appropriate solution that is most likely to work (solution sale).
My friend sells a commodity. He sells based on price on Mondays, lowest cost of ownership on Tuesdays, his selling ability on Wednesdays, his ability to provide expert service on Thursdays and his long-standing relationships on Fridays. For a commodity (transactions when sold as commodities, solutions when sold as value added) it's absolutely critical to effectively differentiate and add value. But don't add value for the sake of adding value, often perceived as an excuse for a higher price, but add customer driven value, justification for a higher price and the fuel to lower overall cost. Most importantly, selling a commodity requires that one resists the temptation to quote what is requested at the lowest price and instead, identify a reason why the product they are requesting may not be the best choice and provide a better way to use or purchase a different product. Try doing that without a salesperson.
Anyway, I can't keep blogging about this. It's off topic. But it's driving me nuts. The impending death of the sales call, the sales force and the salesperson is not only exaggerated, it's a big lie.
The people that make these claims are usually not sales experts. And those who get on the band wagon, using excerpts or entire articles in their Blogs, often lack ideas of their own, choosing to make their Blogs carriers rather than originators.
In my expert opinion, the only thing dead about selling is the concept that selling, sales forces and sales calls are dying. While transactional sales haven't depended on salespeople for years, salespeople can be used to decommoditize, differentiate and educate prospects with the goal of moving a corporate buyer to your product line or company. Then the multiple transactions that follow can be conducted via the phone or internet, using customer service people.
The theory behind the demise of the sales force is that sales will be driven by buyers, not salespeople; that buyers will buy what they want, from whom they want, when they are ready. Now there's a news flash! How is that any different? Their theory has this process taking place without salespeople. But how does one determine what they really need? How does one learn what their real problem is? How does one figure out which company will really take better care of them? How will they come to know that one company has better expertise than another? Good salespeople, asking good, tough, timely questions, help buyers formulate these opinions.
If your company has a complex sale, an expensive product, a long sell cycle, a design build component, an engineering function, a conceptual side, or a pioneering product with a story to tell, you can't wait for a buyer to figure everything out and call you. It must be sold. If you have products or services that people don't think they need or want, they must be sold or nobody would ever buy what you have or switch to your company. And most importantly, if you have a product that someone can easily purchase from any one of a dozen vendors, and yours isn't the low-price option, you have little chance of being selected unless you have some great salespeople differentiating your company from your competition.
In this highly competitive business environment, good, strong, effective salespeople are more crucial then ever before. The only thing dead about the sales force is that ineffective salespeople will no longer be able to get by on relationships and luck. All salespeople will be required to justify their existence. It's not death of the sales call. It's not death of the sales force. It's sell or die.
In point #6 Seth says that he (a salesperson) has no idea what works. He should. He uses his expertise to preach the most effective ways to market goods and services. I preach a sales methodology that works and have a Lens with additional resources to help companies and their salespeople develop and master the best ways to sell their products and services. In this day and age, a company that sends salespeople into the field without a system or process, without a plan, without knowing exactly what they're supposed to do and how they're supposed to do it, is operating in the last century.
Once again, Seth, the marketing genius, is either effectively getting others to write about and promote him or, he is just confused about selling. Once again, I think it's the former and not the latter. He's good!
Now even Seth doesn't believe this. But he sure got people up in arms. I got more email about his Blog this week than I do about my own Blog!
Whether you believe Seth or see his mischievous post for what it is, one thing is as true today as it was 20 years ago. You can accomplish more by phone, email, video conference and overnight delivery than ever before, but if you're selling something complex, expensive, or in need of differentiation; if you're selling something that needs to be shown, demonstrated or built; if you're selling something that requires significant conversation, interchange, questioning and assessment; your prospect will demand to meet you before they sign a contract!
When prospects attempt to determine who they should buy from and what exactly they should buy, it usually requires more than a phone call and a proposal. They want to meet the people they will be doing business with. Certainly, there are some services and products that were meant to be sold over the internet. But that only works when prospects know exactly what they want, who they want it from and how much they want to pay. And how did they get to that point? Most likely, a sales call!
We may be able to eliminate some of the in-between calls from the sales process but as long as buyers want to meet the people they're giving money to, the sales call will live forever.