Have sales people become redundant??
I want to preface this article by saying I’ve spent more than double the amount of time in underground mining and tunnel construction than I have in Property. My foray into property sales only started 5 years ago. Some people may consider me unqualified to comment on the changing landscape of B2B (business to business) sales, but I contest that being a mature age student in the property world has given me a fresh perspective, and allowed me to question all the typical practices – in what is still a largely unregulated industry.
Part 1 – Death of a Salesman
I’m “that guy” who snarls at the bloke trying to sell me a dryer at Harvey Norman. I’ll happily risk being flattened by a bus to avoid harassment by a backpacker with a clipboard, and while I’m not proud of it, if I get the faintest whiff of a telemarketer on the phone, I just hang up without a single word… goodbye!
The point is – I’m the poster boy for how many (most?) people feel about dealing with a sales person in 2018. This is true of retail sales, service sales and in my case B2B (Business to Business) sales.
Modern buyers and businesses are highly sceptical about sales and marketing messages or the people they encounter. It’s to the point where the word salesperson is almost redundant. According to a Forrester report, only 29% of people want to talk to a salesperson before making a purchasing decision, and 59% of buyers have already made up their minds before this conversation takes place.
These numbers are based primarily on direct selling but still resonates in the B2B world. There are of course, a lot of factors at play here; the most influential of which is the fact that 88% of all Australian adults have a personal computer in their pocket, available to them 24/7. Access to all relevant information is at our fingertips so reliance on an outside source for initial research on a product or service is becoming obsolete. This is an empowering and positive step for all consumers as historically (and this may surprise you), not all sales people have been fully educated on product and services, nor entirely honest.
Part 2 – At Ease Soldier
The advantage I see of not being indoctrinated in the sales world is the ability to see past prescribed sales tactics. I don’t think anyone I work with closely would say that I was typical sales person. What I hope they would say is that I know my business, I know my product, I’m good with people, I take time to get to know what they want, I understand what motivates them, I add value to their business and I make transactions smoother. They might also say none of that, but it’s what I’m striving for. This, in a nutshell, is my understanding of the changing landscape of sales.
Adam Uzialto said it best in the Jan edition of Business News Daily.
“Differentiating yourself in the marketplace is key, and then nailing that first point of contact – by qualifying your leads and making your value propositions apparent – is what will close your sales. Pushiness and aggressive salesmanship will not win the day; availability of information and a consultative approach are much more effective.”
I’m a huge advocate of this last point on avoiding pushiness. I have worked in that boiler room environment where this was the key measure implemented to drive sales and hit KPIs. From my personal experience it had the opposite effect. It may be sustainable for a short period in a thriving market, but long-term partnerships based on understanding of your business partner, availability of information, consistency and a consultative approach will trump the bulldog persona every time…. EVERY TIME.
The role of a B to B sales person is evolving. The importance of tried and tested sales process tactics, while still often relevant, have been superseded by the need for emotional intelligence, relationship building, consultative solutions and becoming the expert in your field (something I am working on). My outsider’s perspective may be different from some industry stalwarts, but it has led to an approach to the sales process that has been successful so far and seems to be validated by many in the industry.
Long term I’m positive it will lead to better outcomes for my business partners and their clients.