Observations and Insights on Selling

The SalesPractice blog offers weekly observations and insights for sales practitioners pursuing the highest levels of performance in personal selling.

This Week's Post:

Jargon Will Never Define the Future

Gary Boye

THERE'S A SILLY notion circulating among some people that The Internet and online commerce poses a serious threat to the profession of selling. The best way to dispel such foolishness is to examine its source. To do that properly, we want to first take a look at some recent history.

In the mid-nineties, the Internet was still in its infancy stage. Most small to mid-sized companies and organizations were still lacking any meaningful online presence. Blogging was not a household word. The various search engines had not been rubbed out by the innovators that would become dominant and all powerful. There was talk on how to make big money on the web. Some of us were still grinning at funny names like Yahoo and Google, amazed at how companies were branding themselves. Cleverness was becoming so out of the box that it would have trouble finding its way back home. Online auctions like EBay and booksellers like Amazon had not yet imposed their will on how we were to buy things. Search engine optimization was so simple you could learn it in a four hour class along with a primer thrown in on HTML. I know--I took such a class. Ask me about SEO now and I'll tell you I'm running late for an appointment.

Back in those days, web sites were thought of as a commodity. They were a screen you could advertise on. That was before the word "advertising" became tainted in favor of "marketing," perhaps because of the high costs and risky returns associated with mainstream advertising venues. Many companies started taking the plunge onto the net with "brochure sites" to get their message across. It was an apt description because the content contained little more than what you would find on a tri-fold printed brochure. Not many sites were interactive. People were still very cautious about putting credit card information onto the relative few shopping carts that did exist. The porn and network marketing companies, on the other hand, took the new venue seriously. They pioneered replicated and affiliate sites which were all over the soon-to-be-mighty web. Alongside them were the direct mail people who learned that they could supplant their burdensome postage costs with web sites that would not meet today's design standards. I'm not here to judge; I'm only telling who was at the party. My friend and fellow author, Peter Stairs, once said, "The hucksters are always first on the scene."

Fast forward a decade. Something was about to happen that gave some career salespeople cause for alarm. There was a new "thing" floating around out there which became the scuttlebutt of blogs, books, conferences, and corporate think tanks. It has a name: Sales 2.0.

Recently I decided to try to get a definition of exactly what Sales 2.0 is supposed to mean. I researched it on Google and found that almost all information on the topic was on blogs, most of them written by people who had hung their virtual shingle on the web, touting themselves as consultants, thought leaders, and solution providers. One fellow said on his blog that he had invented the term Sales 2.0 and had it trademarked.

Let's pause for a moment and consider why the prolific bloggers and would-be sales gurus would to stir up such a ruckus. They are, after all, "solution providers," which is a term so many of the consultative types have an affinity for. Obviously it's pretty tough to carry a solution around in a bag and not have any place to work its magic on. I'm reminded that the elixir hucksters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries are noted for their efforts in halting a severe tapeworm epidemic. I'll spare the reader the details.

The jargon term, Sales 2.0, is actually a frail play on words. In 1999, the term, Web 2.0 was coined and popularized to describe web enabled technologies that facilitate interaction among users via the World Wide Web. Examples of such interaction include the sharing of information, people buying things online, and collaboration. In other words, the Internet was starting to cross the threshold that took it from contrivance to new ways interact and transact.

A magazine that calls itself Selling Power published a full feature article defining Sales 2.0 with the following words: Sales 2.0 brings together customer- focused methodologies and productivity-enhancing technologies that transform selling from an art to a science. Sales 2.0 relies on a repeatable, collaborative, and customer-enabled process that runs through the sales and marketing organization, resulting in improved productivity, predictable ROI, and superior performance.

That's ten adjectives in two sentences; three of them are hyphenated as has become the trend in business speak. If giving something a name actually made it exist, we could look out our windows and see hobbits and unicorns. Sales 2.0 is a word creation and it has no effect on the real world because it doesn't reference the real world.

Selling is neither a science nor an art. It's a practice. There are those who engage that practice in an artful manner. They combine understanding with creativity. They are the least endangered species in the entire business universe. The most important thing to realize is that the business of selling is a people business. We can dispense with the make believe issues in a make believe world. In the real world we have truly professional salespeople. It's safe to say that they are devoted to offering the following which an online venue would struggle with:

  • Reliable information
  • Evaluation of information
  • Interpretation of information
  • Application of information
  • The ability to help a buyer disregard non-pertinent information
  • Facilitation on acting on information
  • Upgrades to information in an increasingly dynamic atmosphere
  • Empathy
  • A personal touch
  • A partnership in the buying process

Draw your own conclusions.

Bottom Line

Trivial jargon such as Sales 2.0 will never define our future. Neither has it taken hold among serious sales practitioners or consumers. The superior salesperson is a creative thinker. She chooses her activities wisely and applies common sense. In so doing, she increases her opportunities for success consistently.