A quick browse around LinkedIn will show countless articles about how Sales has changed over the last few years and the traditional idea of what it means to be a sales person has changed. True. The traditional idea of a pushy sales person is no longer acceptable in today’s market. But in reality not a lot has changed, the key activities and attitudes you need to excel as a sales person remain the same:
Another cursory glance at LinkedIn will tell you that “cold calling is dead” and “cold calls don’t work”. Not true. Telephone-based lead generation is still the most effective form of generating interest in your business. What is true is the way cold calling is conducted has changed. In the past it was all about the numbers: bang out as many calls as you can and eventually someone will be interested. This will still work, it’s just not very effective. A successful cold call now is not about telling how great you, your business or your product is, it’s about generating enough interest to start a conversation and then strong questioning to find out if you can actually add any value. In other words, the focus has gone from talking about yourself to asking about them. For more information on how to make a really strong cold call, check out our other articles.
Once you’ve generated enough interest that you can gain commitment to a meeting, the traditional idea is to take your product and demonstrate how amazing it is. Now though, like a great cold call, a strong meeting will still focus almost entirely on the other person. It should be uncovering further information and only towards the end of the meeting should you begin using this information to demonstrate how your product or service could overcome the challenges they’re facing. Like a good first date, you should avoid talking about yourself more than them, and when you are talking about yourself you really should be interesting and relevant to them.
In the past, the main focus of events was to get your product in front of hundreds of people at once. Whilst this is still the case in many situations (we’re big fans of Sales Innovation Expo which gives us the opportunity to do just that), there has been yet another shift in the goal of these. You guessed it, attending an event should be about having conversations and unearthing need, rather than just shouting about how great you are. There’s also been a much bigger shift towards business networking, with the goal being not on meeting as many people as you can, but on building really strong business relationships even if the people you’re meeting may never be a customer of yours. Building great relationships is one of the most important aspects of sales, and in fact for the first three years gave us 80% of our new business at Elation.
As with activities, the attitudes required to be a strong sales person remain largely the same, it’s how they’re used that’s changed. The traditional view of a sales person is someone who is determined to succeed at any cost, which often translates to be pushing and refusing to accept “no” for an answer. Whilst determination is still an integral part of sales success, now it should be used to find more ways to add value to your customers and doggedly do whatever it takes to demonstrate how much you value them and could be valuable for them. Again, it’s about them, not you.
To good at Sales you have to be good at taking rejection. That’s always been the case and still stands today. However, what has changed is what you do after the rejection. Instead of just hanging up the phone or walking out of the meeting and focusing on the next opportunity, use your resilience to reflect: look at how you conducted yourself, did you ask enough questions and demonstrate value? Look at your product: was it really right for them and could you use their reasons for saying “no” to improve the product. Don’t just move on, reflect and grow.
Being a great conversationalist, in many people’s eyes, seems to mean being fond of the sound of your own voice. “Let me tell you about my product.” “I’m going to present to you the amazing things my product does.” Nobody cares what your product does or how great it is, they care about how it effects them. So, to be a great conversationalist you need to shut up. Ask your questions and then listen to the answers. Let them tell you why they need the product, they know a lot more about their struggles than you do.
Because to be really great at Sales you need to be great at focusing on the other person. You need to be great at asking rather than telling, helping rather than benefiting. But the result is still a sale. At the end of your meeting or call or event you still have the same goal: the encourage someone to buy your product. All that’s changed is now people will buy your product because they actually see the benefit of it, so they’ll continue to buy it and tell their friends about it. Instead of pushing someone into buying it once and then resenting you for it, you’re encouraging and informed decision and building long-term loyal clients.