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Selling is a Learning Experience More than a Transference of Knowledge

The Information Age has been hailed as the successor to the Industrial Age. But, the true gift of the digital invention as we are now learning is not information, but collaboration. The change-agent sales strategy is built on a model of mutual discovery and sharing of information to collaborate, speed up and enhance decision-making. It is selling totally redefined.

The change-agent is a total trial and error process. That is why it is so rare. Mainstream selling gives one a false sense of security, that is why it is so popular, yet so ineffective. The best a customer could say about an information seller is you really know your business. The best a customer could say about a change-agent is you really know our business. Traditional sales people come to a sales call knowing they can bring value or create value. The change-agent has a wait and see attitude and finds out only after they have heard the customer's complete story. It is creative destruction, it throws the sales call upside down. That is why it is so refreshing.

The change-agent sales process teaches you to be a shrewd judge of character. However, it does require a lot of social intelligence. It is a clean, lean and mean process. No pomp and circumstances like conventional selling strategies. The change-agent comes across as very non-calculated in this free-thinking strategy.

Selling is a learning experience for sales people more than just a transfer of knowledge to customers. The key question facing the change-agent is will the customer let you learn about their business and their issues. Do they value the unbiased insight that you bring to the table and will they give you the time to hear them out? In other words do they trust you.

Customers are clamoring for a personal connection, or a human connection, but are loath to take the risk, because they do not believe they will get it with a mainstream sales person. Few sales people work very hard to try to erase the line between advice and strong self-interest. They carry the torch for their company and abandon any pretense and semblance of objectivity, resulting in customers believing they are blatantly partisan.

Remember, customers do not mind changing so much as they hate to be changed. Therefore the change-agent strategy is a pull through sales strategy, unlike traditional selling which relies on an aggressive push strategy (shove). Change-agents do not have a dog in the fight. They provide a system of checks and balances to let the customer draw their own independent conclusions.

The change-agent helps customers understand their problems, get out of problems and avoid problems. They help customers navigate options and quantify and qualify their reasons for change. Keep in mind, the only reason people change is to go from bad to good in some form or another. Yet, not everyone is ready or willing to make this transition. So a change-agent is a combination of matchmaker or matchbreaker, depending on the circumstances.

Change-agents are reductionist. They attempt to reduce all problems and questions of change to their lowest common denominator; do customers have the means, motive, political will, proper timing, authority and commitment to make decisive calls on change or not. Notice it is all about them and little about you and your storied company. So give them a wide berth and a lot of free will.

The problem with most buyer/seller relationships is both parties add so little value and each takes one another for granted. Sales people give superficial information, customers respond by returning the favor by sharing little information of importance. The change-agent tries to alter this equation.

As a change-agent you need to draw the line and then advance to its very edges. You have to at appropriate times push the boundaries because customers will on a whim be interested in changing when it makes no practical sense. The change-agent is not afraid of creating polarizing positions, being a devil's advocate and challenging the merits of change. You try to diminish the arbitrary nature of how customers make decisions by adding clarity to their thinking. You want to avoid being hopelessly trapped into some customer's poorly thought-out storyline of what they need and want that will invariably result in just a pipe dream. A change-agent sales call is rarely static. It goes where the customer goes... good, bad or indifferent. Sales calls are all spontaneous and unpredictable when conducted from the customer's best interest.

The new mantra I am hearing in sales literature is making it easy for the customer to buy. Yet this has serious unintended consequences. Changing is not easy for customers. They must go through in some cases a lot of gut wrenching due diligence. Sales people who want to make it easy for customers to buy will bypass any difficult questions and concerns and let their customers too easily and blindly make uninformed decisions. But, you really do your customers a disservice by letting them take the easy, quick route. Change-agents make it "difficult" for customers to change only because they want them to really cover all their options and all their bases. This way, whatever they decide on, it is a fully informed decision and a firm commitment.

The change-agent is always living with the brakes on their advantages and the advantages for their customers to change. Conventional, personality sellers are always selling full speed ahead. They do not stop for anything. How many sales people can realistically pull this off? Only a very small cadre of elite sales people possess the gift of magnetism and leadership to pull this off. Yet average sales people are trying to model this unattainable goal.

I always ask my training participants which is more telling and conducive to a sale, the power of their message, or the power of their customer's circumstances and story? I tell them if they believed in the latter they would put down and gladly surrender all their sales weapons. They would declare an information, proliferation detente. Pragmatic sales people believe in the value and the power of their customer's unique circumstances to dictate change and action, or to repel and stymie it. They put more emphasis on the customer's conviction to change, than their conviction to get the customer to change. As Kurt Mortensen says, "Customers value their conclusions more than they value yours."

In a nutshell, the change-agent deals with the customer's gap between intention and conviction (will). They do not shy away from asking tough questions to bring clarity to the customer's decision process. They are like Mahatma Gandhi was when it came to communication; say what you feel, and say what you think.

The rate of change will continue to speed up in the future for customers. Sales people who embrace the change-agent sales strategy are guaranteed steady, prosperous employment as they help customers navigate the complexity of change with their problems and their priorities.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com