Everyone knows what sales is, right? After all every one of us is exposed to the selling process almost every day of our lives so we must understand what it is and how it works.
The traditional role of sales is focussed on ‘the transaction’, the exchange of a product or service for money.
And within this context, the challenge for any salesperson is to get more efficient at making a successful transaction.
Old tired sales methods
So traditional sales teaching is populated by such topics as:
- The cold call.
- Funnel management.
- Conflict resolution.
- Client resistance.
- Competitor analysis
- Time management.
- Sales metrics.
- Closing the deal.
- Product knowledge.
All of these topics are intended to enable the sales person to ‘push’ as many products as they can from inventory into the hands of the client and make the sales process more efficient—selling the maximum number of products in the shortest time possible.
The issue with the traditional sales model is that if we are teaching every sales person these same ‘micro-selling techniques’, what distinguishes one salesperson from the other? What makes one particular sales person special enough that the client decides to buy from them over and over?
The way it’s done today is that the masters of micro-selling consistently achieve their quota—they sell the most—and they are given a large pay bonus and most likely a free trip to some exotic place as their award for being the ‘Salesperson of the Year’.
In today’s world, the standout salesperson is recognized by their organization as the one who consistently sells the most.
That’s how they distinguish themselves—they push the most FROM the organization TO the client.
This traditional view of ‘What makes a great salesperson’ is not only short sighted—the focus on annual sales adds limited long term value—it’s narcissistic—the organization rewards itself and often to a great extent leaves the client out of the equation.
The traditional view of sales needs to be replaced with more of a client-centric approach. The historical product-centric paradigm of sales worked when technology was ‘primitive’, when clients’ needs were relatively simple and when competition was not so fierce.
Back then, clients were happy to get their basic needs met and were ok with having the product as the main focus of the sales engagement process.
But not any more.
Today, clients are barraged with salespeople representing a myriad of companies all claiming to be ‘client saviours’ offering the lowest prices and the best quality products.
Who does the client believe with all this noise?
Well, I can tell you that the sales rep who has been the cream of the crop by mastering micro-selling techniques doesn’t stand a chance in this world because clients see their behaviour for exactly what it is: self-serving, egotistical, insincere, dishonest and no different that the person who pitched their proposition to them a few minutes ago.
Today, clients are looking for a salesperson who is consumed with finding out what the CLIENT needs, wants, desires and craves and who is prepared to invest their time to discover them.
If you’re not selected by the client to serve them, what good are all the micro-selling tools you learned?
Client-centered sales isn’t about products and services; it’s about communicating a sales proposition to the client that is unique and different from the competition.
“I got top marks in Conflict Resolution” doesn’t get you much if the client is faced with giving their $MILLION business opportunity to 1 of 5 hungry competitors all hungry for their business.
Competitive context is missing
What’s missing is the competitive context within which micro-sales methods can be meaningfully practised. It’s the framework, if you will, that defines how the competitive game will be played and hence how the sales process must be designed in order to win sales.
Competitive context, the way I think about it, is the declaration of what your organization does to beat the competition and secure the customer.
In practical terms, my method of declaring competitive context for any organization is to create ’The ONLY Statement’ that defines why someone should buy from you and not the other guy. addresses the need for organizations to be specific in terms of what makes them special in a field of competitors.
The ONLY Statement is a declaration of what you uniquely do to serve what your targeted clients need want and desire, and is expressed like this:
‘We are the ONLY ones that…’
Here are two examples of ONLY Statements I helped clients create for their organizations:
- “We are the ONLY team that provides integrated safety solutions that go beyond the needs of our customers ANYTIME, ANYWHERE. We are committed to growing our customer’s business. We ONLY serve safety.”
- “We provide the ONLY solution that permanently stops people from depositing biohazard contaminants through manhole covers.”
Sales organizations need to press executive leadership to create The ONLY Statement that sales can use, or if that’s not possible for whatever reason, sales should create ONLY for themselves to use.
‘We are the only sales team that…’ would be an extremely useful way to move from products to a client-centric approach.
It would force thinking around what really matters to their clients—their wants and needs—and how sales intends to deliver them.
Depending on the client wants and desires sales intends to respond to, ONLY-selling techniques include topics such as:
Being a strategic force.
Losing the sale.
The old sales model is dead.
The new sales roles.
Discovering client ‘leaners’.
Why you should stop selling.
Sales listening skills.
The Sales Report Card.
Sales efficiency in a product-push context is short sighted and doesn’t add any sustainable value for organizations.
Strategic sales in a competitive ONLY-context is the only real way to survive and thrive in the long run.
Start teaching ONLY-selling ways now.