I just read Why Won't Anyone Return My !*#@$% Call by Don Fornes over at Software Advice. Don's read of the current selling environment, specifically cold-calling, entry point into the sales process, and the table stakes just to play are dead-on. Most of his conclusions are good as well.
I disagree with his article when he implies that we should be resigned to the fact that there isn't much to be done except building trust until the prospect is ready to engage. For the under achievers, the largely ineffective 74% of all salespeople, this may be their only hope. But the best salespeople, the top 26%, won't sit back and take a passive role with their prospects and they shouldn't. The top 26% have the ability to engage their prospects earlier, redirect their prospects backward in the sales process, position themselves as trusted advisers, and differentiate themselves from their competitors. All this before they present, close and win. The passive 74% get in when their prospects are ready and typically present, quote, chase and lose.
So the argument is really dependent on whether you have a:
- highly skilled, highly trained, high performing sales force whose competencies include consultative selling skills, proactive prospecting skills, sales cycle management, qualifying and closing skills; or
- circa 20th century sales force whose competencies are limited to presenting, technology, proposals and account management.
In my experience helping companies develop their sales forces to meet the first description, very few of them were aware that their salespeople were so limited as to only meet the second description.
The world of sales selling has changed dramatically due to the abundance of information and the recent economic meltdown. Most companies have not adapted to this change and their sales and especially their margins, reflect this trend.
The question is, where is your sales force today, and how big is the gap between there and where you must be to grow revenue, profit and market share?