Saturday, August 12, 2006

Sales, Sales Force, Salesperson, Sales Call - More Death

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If you're a regular reader then you know I've taken a stand against all of those who are prematurely predicting the death of selling in some form or other. Rick Roberge chimed in on his Blog recently with a post called Selling vs. Marketing and had some very useful and insightful things to say. Then this really strange thing happened as I was enjoying a Diet Coke with a friend after a round of golf ("How'd you play?" "I sucked." "Me Too." "How bad?" "118, but that doesn't belong here.") He told me that his TEC group, now called Vistage, had a guest speaker who talked about the future of business. They recorded the talk and he played it for his management team. Curious, they decided to host a local event, invite some other business leaders and debate the issue. They wanted me to attend - as the contrarian voice - because the "future of business" was really code for the future of the sales force. It turns out that this was the same guy another friend told me about that was the basis for my July 18 post. Enough already everyone! It's true. We don't need salespeople or sales forces anymore. Happy? For buying gas, pizza, airline tickets, hotel rooms, groceries, iPods, etc., we can figure it out by ourselves. But what if it's not for something like that? Some more examples: The last four times it rained hard, water was streaming over our gutters, staining the white stucco on our home. And water sits near the foundation on the side of the house. Another downspout doesn't direct water away from the front of the home and is causing staining and rotting problems. Should I just go on the internet and order a new gutter system? Should I drive to Home Depot or Lowes and buy some gutter supplies? Can the clerk solve my problem while I stand in the aisle? I doubt it. So I called a gutter company and the owner/salesperson stopped by and helped me to understand the real problem; The home is so big and the size of the roof so enormous that the residential gutters on the back of the home are too small. Solution, replace the rear gutter with larger, commercial grade gutters to handle the volume of water coming off the roof. Simple. But not so simple that I could have solved that problem without his help. He also said he could solve the downspout problems with deflectors. He told me how much and I asked when he do it. If I was the type who shopped around - and I'm not - he would have needed to differentiate himself. He did anyway, but didn't have to. If I'm purchasing a single laptop computer, and I know what I need and like, I can buy one on line from Dell (transactional sale). If I'm outfitting my entire company with the latest in technology (a complex sale) I'd better have some companies come in and recommend the appropriate solution for our needs (another complex sale). If I need a marketing company to help with our branding, promotions, image, advertising and public relations (Seth should get this example), I'm not heading to the internet. Instead, I'm seeking out companies that are known to be effective at this, interviewing them (salespeople) and choosing not the one with the best price, not the one who is closest, not the one that has the most awards, not the one who has experience in my industry, not the one who can do it the quickest, and not the one who has the friendliest salesperson. I'm choosing the one who best understands my problem and can give me the most appropriate solution that is most likely to work (solution sale). My friend sells a commodity. He sells based on price on Mondays, lowest cost of ownership on Tuesdays, his selling ability on Wednesdays, his ability to provide expert service on Thursdays and his long-standing relationships on Fridays. For a commodity (transactions when sold as commodities, solutions when sold as value added) it's absolutely critical to effectively differentiate and add value. But don't add value for the sake of adding value, often perceived as an excuse for a higher price, but add customer driven value, justification for a higher price and the fuel to lower overall cost. Most importantly, selling a commodity requires that one resists the temptation to quote what is requested at the lowest price and instead, identify a reason why the product they are requesting may not be the best choice and provide a better way to use or purchase a different product. Try doing that without a salesperson. Anyway, I can't keep blogging about this. It's off topic. But it's driving me nuts. The impending death of the sales call, the sales force and the salesperson is not only exaggerated, it's a big lie.
(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.


At 8/12/2006 11:11:00 AM, Blogger Don Hicks said...

Great marketing can propel a start-up company from $0 to $10MM. But, it requires sales expertise to land your first $10MM customer.

At 8/13/2006 05:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article! I've been following this issue on your blog and on Rick's blog. This finally ends the debate (if there was one).


At 8/14/2006 05:10:00 PM, Anonymous Wendy Eustace said...

People get hung up on the word sales. In Webster's dictionary sales is defined as "instilling confidence". We all want to do that for our clients, customers in fact in most of the people around us. Children don't have these hang ups. They are persistent when they want something. As good sales consultants, we first need to find out what the client or customer wants and then deliver. Who doesn't want that? Wendy Eustace, Business Coach

At 8/14/2006 05:46:00 PM, Blogger Ryan Sarti said...

The internet was going create the end of the field sales force. Telemarketing and inside sales groups were going to make a field sales force obsolete. The computer was going to create paperless office and so paper companies were going to go out of business. Had you bought paper company stock when the computer created the paperless office, you wouldn't have to work'd just have to manage your money. The point is that sales people aren't going away until people stop having problems they want to solve.

At 8/18/2006 04:56:00 PM, Anonymous GAry Harvey/Sales Trainer and coach said...

Think about it, wasn't the whole concept at the start of the internet sold to the pubic by a "salesperson". Meaning a guy or gal "sold" the public that this internet thing is a good tool. So even the internet to get launched many years ago required a "sale!" Sg again you reinforce here, "the rumor of my demise has been greatly exagerated."


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