Sales Ain’t What It Used To Be (and that’s a good thing)

My first “sales” job after college was a fleet services company that did little marketing and left it up to the sales representatives to cold call their way into prospects through sheer, brute force. A slick intro (ask me about the “lemon mailer”) was nice, but there was very little marketing effort to help identify prospective sales targets. It was basically field sightings and referrals. If you found a potential customer, you engaged. There was no opportunity sizing, no marketing effort to nurture the prospect into the buying cycle, no defined sales process to determine when we should engage a prospect or when we should move on.

The mantra was “cast a wide net.” I was on the road in my company car four or five days a week. I bribed my family to help spot leads on the road as they drove around. If they spotted “Stan’s Heating and Air Conditioning” they wrote it down with the phone number. My cold calling started the next workday.

Problem was, every competitor I had was also seeing these vehicles on the road and calling Stan to try to get his business.

Then came the “sales training”… A 6’ 8” gentleman flew in from the mid-west to spend three days in a conference room with the sales team I was part of. He spun yarns about his greatest sales stories. Some focused on landing the “big fish”, some were examples of how things just “lucked out and fell into place” and many were stories about how he stepped in it, made a mess of things and learned from the experience.

He left us with his four keys to sales success:

  1. Become the “trusted advisor” with a wealth of industry knowledge
  2. Know your products inside and out
  3. “Jellybean” to build rapport
  4. When they stop calling you back, stop by

Before I lose you to a fit of laughter, keep in mind this was the mid-90’s. “Big data”, at least from a prospect modeling standpoint, was a fledgling company named InfoUSA. The CRM of choice at that time was ACT! Form letters (the kind you signed, put in an envelope and mailed) were life-changing.

Do you still need to be a “trusted advisor”? To a degree, yes. But you are representing your company. Your advising should be limited to the manner in which your products and services can assist your prospect’s business to do more in their market.

Product knowledge is important, but the impact your products and services can have on your prospective client’s business is far more important. It is the application of your solution that will help you make the sale. Knowing the inflow on your pump is 6mm compared to your top competitor’s 5mm is nice… but what does that 1mm mean to your future customer?

“Jellybeaning” is a reference to former U.S. President Ronald Regan. He kept a jar of jelly beans on his desk as a conversation starter. You shouldn’t be searching the office of your contact as you walk through the door for the first time to look for something you might have in common. Today’s technology allows you to get warm introductions from shared connections and you can easily comb a company’s website to understand their mission and key current projects. These are the things you should focus on. The personal connection will come after they gain respect for you as a professional representative of your business.

Holy cow… stop by when they stop calling you back. Where do I start? If a prospect stops replying to your inquiries, they have exited in the buying cycle or had never entered it to begin with. Knowing when a prospect is ready to talk to your sales team is key. Your sales team knowing when it’s time to move on from a prospect is something few companies have mastered.

Fast forward 25 years and the sales process, marketing techniques and support and the data you can use to focus on the prospects you need to focus on have changed the sales landscape forever.

Salespeople are no longer hammers. With the correct sales process, they can be precision instruments, zeroing in on prospective clients who are entering or in the marketing for your goods and services, with the spend necessary to crush sales quotas.

Step into the data and process driven age of sales and add a continuous feedback loop to your marketing and product teams with Sales Surge. We can help you bring your organization forward and help you achieve sales growth, increased customer satisfaction, and lower sales operating costs.


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