Strive Not to Be a Success, But Rather to Be of Value
"Selling changed and someone forgot to tell the sales team the way people buy today is very tough and that is not your fault. But changing is your responsibility," says Dave Lakhani. Customers are clearly in control with RFPs, online bidding, reverse auctions, supply and demand forces, social media and Google. Unfortunately, too many sales forces have not adopted to the realities of the 21st-Century. Time and time again customers buy in spite of the sales person, not because of them.
The power of influence has dramatically shifted from sellers to buyers. "The expression caveat emptor (buyer beware) has been turned completely on its head during the past 10 years. Buyer power particularly in oversupplied Western economies is here to stay," says Diane Woodburn.
Sales organizations are slowly starting to get a rude awakening that they are successfully using unsuccessful sales strategies from the 20th Century. They are using the equivalent of DOS in a world that is not. To make matters worse, they are playing with the wrong strategy, and winning at it (small degree). Their strategy stands out because it is full of promise, full of hope and ignorant of reality. It is a vanity project that just hypes product and company, with little basis in the reality of customer's challenges and most pressing issues.
Without a defined sales strategy, sales organizations have given customers license to throw away any semblance of a value proposition or a partnership, resulting in rampant commoditization and demoralization and the lost of dignity to sellers. According to CSO Insights, only 32% of sales executives audited have a formal sales process. I bet it is much lower! Companies have an IT platform, accounting process, manufacturing process, but no sales process except a wing and a prayer, lots of information selling and false hope and enthusiasm. Most of these sales strategies keep sales people mired in mediocrity.
The fatal mistake with most sales people's sales process is it focuses on how they sell, instead of the psychology of how and why customers change, take action and buy. The strategy of false hope does not work; I hope they have a problem... I hope they have control of the budget...I hope they are the primary decision-maker...I hope the timing is right...I hope they are not stupid enough to stay with the status quo.
The strategy of top-down selling, establishing first product supremacy, and then finding out superficially what the customer's needs are, is convoluted. Sales people need to build their business case from the ground up (problems first). Once they do a superior job of that, solution validation and justification is so much easier.
"Sales people add value at the end of the sale not at the beginning. The law of value; your true worth is determined by how much you give in value, than you take in payment," says Bob Burg. 90% of creating value is understanding what the customer values, and the cost of what they are not getting in value. Traditional sales people are hyper focused only on delivering their value in the end product.
Every company is seeking competitive advantages through added-value in its products and services. However, the sales person is the real added-value. It is the external value of the sales person that is more important than the tangibles and intangibles that are internal to the product. In the old days your added-value was theater, entertainment and personality. Today an effective sales process has the added-value of the sales person playing the role of an unbiased business advisor and strategist.
Many mainstream sales people want to get a leg up on the competition by being more strategic and consultative, but their approach is so often an escape from the truth of the customer's business needs, not an approach towards it. They sell in a world of false bravado, fantasy and illusion. "The good thing about not having a strategy is that failure comes as a complete surprise and is not preceded by a long period of worry," says Diane Woodburn.
Traditional sales people's sales strategy is vacuous because it lacks substance, customer fluency, impartiality and does not help customers make difficult decisions and choices about changing. Sales people are becoming less relevant because they are not a vital ingredient in their sales process. Too often they are simply product mouthpieces. Free associating, unbiased brainstorming, independence, trust, thinking outside the box, creativity, business acumen and critical thinking is what customers value and need. As Einstein said, "Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value."