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The Resurgence of Selling

It seems like you do not have to search very hard online to find "sales experts" or the like forecasting the death of selling. The reasons given for the death of selling vary but Internet access, collaboration enabling technologies, crazy-busy buyers, and rapid change are often identified individually or collectively as the culprit(s). Perhaps this is one of those glass half-empty half-full situations but it seems like these exact same reasons signal the resurgence of selling (not order taking or clerking). What are your thoughts on the matter?

For links to related discussions visit: The Future of Selling - by Community Mailbox
Anyone who predicts the death of selling has been drinking too much techo kool-aid.

Technology gives us great advantages for time saving in all our work aspects, but sales are made (different from order taking) when a salesperson calls on prospects and gives them reasons to buy a product or service.

Yes, there is a problem. In the real estate field, I talk to many agents who somehow believe that new technology will replace the need to sell. They fill the seminars offering the latest whiz-bang that will so impress a listing prospect that the agent only has to show his or her new toy and the prospect will sign.

If that was true, why do 60% of all agents still fail in the first year and 83% still fail within three years. That stat has not changed in 40 years. The only thing that has changed is agents who fail have lost a lot more in recent years than before.

JB - by Jerry Bresser
It is not that traditional selling is dead, it has changed.

Where mediocre sales people may have been able to get by selling prior to the internets commoditization of products/services they find themselves struggling in the information age.

Seasoned well trained professionals are able to what they always have been able too, add value..and in most cases sell against "the box". - by dsteel
Products don't sell themselves. Never have. Never will. - by Rainmaker
Anyone who makes this kind of comment knows nothing about anything because nothing happens till somebody makes a sale. All these self proclaimed geniuses who sit in ivory towers or acedemics who make ridiculous predictions about world economies would do better to keep out. They are no more than anti-social negative soothsayers who spend too much time on drugs or suffer other dependencies.

There will always be a place for professional sales people who know how to form relationships, enter into confrontation and engage and use their personality to keep money and commodities flowing and thereby making a contribution to the life of themselves, their family and society which is more than a whole lot of other people do! If you disagree I would like to hear from you. If you agree don't bother writing that will be a sign that we are kindred spirits and that there is more than one person in the world with a bit of common sence. Another sales secret has been revealed. - by SalesSecretsRevealed
Selling is not dead. Direct sales is the oldest profession in the world, some claim prostitution is but that is a direct to the consumer process. I have sold in the home on an appointment basis since 1977. My closing % over the last 34 years is 80% regardless of product. The reality is in the numbers.

Out of 10 people:
2 won't buy anything, you can stand on a corner selling $10 bills for $1 and they won't buy
2 will buy anything, though 20% would be a homerun in internet sales.
4 will buy if motivated and the product is something they want.
The last 4 is where the true salesperson makes their mark.

The ability to find out what the client wants on an emotional level and establish the trust relationship allows us to prosper in sales.

The fact that the current competition is a computer doesn't change the number of people you need to see to generate the income you desire, if that's how you measure success.

The profession of selling is thriving right now even though some salespeople are not. - by mkelly2020
It is quite simple, just look where that postulate is coming from.

Sales Trainers and Coaches

Why?

To lead people to believe they can help you from letting it die for you or your company.

Most of this type of hype is just crap...

For example some are preaching that the "cold call" is dead...

But their answer is: if you do the research then you'll warm the call up and it won't be cold.

Bull pucky -- people have been doing research forever -- when you call someone you don't know, no matter how much you may think you know about them, without a DIRECT referral -- it's a COLD CALL.

They have simply twisted the definitions to create the illusion of value of there product or service. - by Flyn L. Penoyer
As I start to prospect for my own new business, I do like to use many of the technological tools to approach prospects in new and different ways. Still...once you've made contact, it's still about people communicating with people, building trust and exchanging commitments.

If you're the real deal, it's a great time to be in sales. - MM - by magicman
People buy from people they know, like, and trust. Plain and simple. Selling is listening to needs, and satisfying those needs with your product or services. - by jstrachan100
The influence of digitisation and the Internet has caused a change in the way we communicate, learn and conduct commercial business. Of course, this has an impact on sales and negotiations and we have to respond. However what is worse is that unscrupulous or un-enlightened buyers are utilising the new technology to undermine the value and status of their suppliers. This is both an unintentional and a deliberate policy, dependent upon the sophistication of the buyer. We should be in no doubt, some buyers are deliberately commoditising their suppliers in order to secure greater power over them. After all, it is quite difficult to explain your differentiating proposition and strategic relationship during an e-auction!

So what? Well, it is time to start practising what we, as sales professionals, preach!
  • Segment customer or prospect portfolios according to value (not just profitability).
  • Develop appropriate guidelines and strategies for selling to each customer segment.
  • Revise and hone sales and negotiation processes and skills – practise them.
  • Build personal relationships with clients. Sellers need to get in front of prospective clients and away from their desks and PCs.
  • Find the enlightened buyers and supportive operators rather than the manipulative traditional buyers quickly, before it is too late.
  • Embrace new technologies and digitisation as tools to support these strategies rather than being driven into technology-led relationships. Electronic and digital methodologies are very useful in certain circumstances but they should be complementary to rather than supplanting conventional human interaction.
- by buzzas
LOL! You have got to be kidding me right? I sell auto insurance in an incoming calls only call center and I close 50% of the people I talk to. The Internet only (no human contact) product has closure that is 20% of mine. If I didn't know what my competitors are doing and how we are a better fit for the customer I would would not have a prayer.

Have a blessed day!
Chris - by nbl101
Selling dead? Dying? I don't think so, but any of us would be foolish to look at the quickly changing landscape and not realize that no one, and no profession, is immune from the potential for massive change. Take a look at the record or publishing industries...if you had asked a record executive 10 years ago if their job was secure I'm betting you would have heard a resounding "YES!" until iTunes came along and changed the game.

Here's my feeling...the culture of sales will stay the same and their will, at least for the foreseeable future, be a place (and an income) for professional salespeople. Those whose skills are weak, or whose work ethic is lagging, beware...your job may not be so secure. While the Internet has certainly changed, and continues to change, the way the world works I believe that for a long time to come there will be opportunity for sales pros that can drive sales and revenue. - by Jeff Goldberg
It seems that the idea here is that the internet has replaced the need for a sales person. I sell used cars and often have people come in and begin to tell me about the cars they have researched. This is the extent of the internets ivolvement in the sell. i have yet to have someone walk up to me and say, "i checked this out on line, let's go inside and buy it". Go figure. They still need me to sell them. - by tglover
I am a self-proclaimed master of using the internet to perform pre-purchase research. Yet, I have absolutely no belief in the "death of selling" concept. Why? Here are just a few of the reasons:
  • While individual products and services can be commoditized, it is much more difficult to commoditize solutions that combine products and services. As solution complexity increases, the ability to commoditize decreases.
  • Even with commoditized products and services there can be a bewildering variety of offerings. Many potential buyers of these products and services are not willing to invest the time to perform exhaustive research. Even after they do the research they may have difficulty choosing from among a huge variety of offerings, especially if the offerings are not identical. This is where salesperson assistance can be valuable.
  • Salespeople can help their customers save a lot of time. Back in the 1980's when I sold complex computer systems for a large computer distributor, one of my customers made a request that became the foundation of my customer relationships. He said, "Alan, if I need computer stuff of any kind, I would like to be able to call you. If you can provide it, please provide price and delivery. If you can't provide it, please find a source that can provide it and give me the source's contact information." Since I had access to a huge portfolio of products and services and a centralized engineering team that could identify sources for products and services that I couldn't supply directly, it was easy for me to provide my customers with this level of service. The result? Huge sales volumes and very happy customers!
As another rebuttal to the "death of selling" premise, the Consultative Selling website lays out the following three parameters that help determine whether Consultative Selling is a useful methodology for a particular business' sales organization:
  1. Product/Service Complexity: Consultative Selling is often a good fit for selling environments where the nature of the offering is complex.
  2. Frequency of Purchase: Use Consultative Selling with infrequent buyers and be the expert who fills their knowledge gaps.
  3. Cost of Failure: When your buyer is facing high costs of failure, Consultative Selling is usually the right sales approach.
In summary, while Sales will continue to change and evolve, it will require incredible advances in computers' ability to problem-solve before salespeople go the way of the Dodo. - by Alan Rigg
Rather than glass-half-empty or glass-half-full, I think the issue is the wrong glass! (They're using a looking glass when they should be using a magnifying glass.) Here's what I mean: We live in an age when every innovation gets immediate wide-spread attention. And the reaction to every new product or technology is "this changes everything."

The fact is that nothing changes everything. What changes is not what we do, but how we do it. Look at text messaging: We're doing the same thing that native Americans did with a blanket and smoke signals – just doing it in a different way. Facebook is not a marketplace – it's more like a cocktail party, where people pretend they "like" each other and that they're making meaningful connections. The changes in how selling occurs are not really recent – we've known for 50 years that needs-based selling is the only thing that really makes sense. And with new communication tools, dinosaur sales reps and companies have lost the only advantage they had with old-style selling and marketing approaches: control of information.

Selling – call it consultative, or counselor, or needs-based – is alive and well for one simple reason: People who need solutions do not fully understand how to choose those solutions. And they don't always see the need to take action in a timely manner. They need the help of someone who is focused on service, not acquisitiveness. And the tools and techniques of professional selling are the thing that will get them there.

(Good to see my old friend Jerry Bresser with the first post!) - by Lloyd Meredith
It seems like you do not have to search very hard online to find "sales experts" or the like forecasting the death of selling. The reasons given for the death of selling vary but Internet access, collaboration enabling technologies, crazy-busy buyers, and rapid change are often identified individually or collectively as the culprit(s). Perhaps this is one of those glass half-empty half-full situations but it seems like these exact same reasons signal the resurgence of selling (not order taking or clerking). What are your thoughts on the matter?

Sales will never die. In it's purest form, it is trade, and trade has always been on this planet and always will be. It may be heading towards a more efficient and beneficial direction in the future, and getting back to the real essence of trade, but it certainly won't die.
- by sellwithnate
Technology may have automated some parts of the sales process, for some products. But it's also created a whole bunch of new products that need to be sold! Case in point: Apple tends to lead the curve in terms of new technology products, yet they bucked the trend by investing hugely in retails stores with real sales people. Furthermore just read the number of articles following Steve Jobs passing testifying how his salesmanship was key to Apple's success. - by markg
Really? Please. I spit coffee all over my keyboard when I read this.

(Full disclosure: because I am a sales coach and consultant, I am biased in favor of the health and life of the sales profession.)

Dead? Sales? You mean Michael Jackson dead? Eight-track tape dead? You mean no longer relevant, like the ‘breaking news’ reports screaming from your TV?

The answer (as many of the esteemed contributors here have said) is NO. Here is what those other, doom-n-gloom writers have missed:

Ever hear the term disruptive innovation? That’s an invention or cultural shift that quickly reshapes a market or method. Witness newspapers vs. online sources or phone booths vs. cell phones. Anytime you can say “we don’t do it that way anymore,” a new modus operandi has eliminated the relevance of its predecessor.

And so we come to sales. It is alive and well and, yes, more in need than ever before. But something IS different. Disruptive innovation, in the guise of technology and time, has changed it. The problem here is that some practitioners have not. Old methods of selling (as one of my clients calls it “who up and throw up”) are gone. Understanding a potential customer’s business, trends, needs, costs and concerns have replaced them

Sales is alive and well. Enjoy the ride! - by Joe Guertin
Selling is as alive today, as it was in the last century and the one before that. Once upon a time Salespeople travelled around on trains. Then someone invented the car which of course Salespeople began to make use of and of course kept selling. Phones were once state of the art technology which Salespeople began to use but Selling didnt cease to exist.
Technology just adds to the many ways we can communicate but the laws of Selling are as true today as they ever were. - by solace
Yes, the times the are a changing. No doubt about that. But, no computer will ever replace a salesman. The problem is time. Customers no longer have the time to shop, no matter what good or service they are buying. Too many companies either have weak, or nonexistent outside sales forces. Customers need YOU to come to THEM. When I sold cars, I took the car that the customer was interested in TO either their home or office. This kind of service is very under utilized today. You can no longer sit in the office or store, and wait for the customers to come to you. You have to go to them. Period. - by keithdhall
My product is a web based application. It is not targeted at the public but focused at a rather narrow vertical industry that doesn't know that I exist.

It would seem likely that I would choose web based technology as a marketing medium but I don't. I choose cold calling on the phone as the most likely marketing communication channel that will be effective for me.

Why? Cold calling is a hassle, doesn't happen very fast and could be full of personal disappointment. But look at my results:

I've been 'on the web' with a search ranking for several years but no one touches my web site.

I've tried direct mail marketing which got me one response in about 50 mail pieces and that response was from a no-po (no position, power, possibility, potential, purchase order) but it was a response. He did go to my web site.

I've tried cold calling and got three people at the decision level on the phone but I was totally unprepared to talk to them. I didn't have a script, I didn't have engaging questions, I didn't even know how to introduce myself.

So looking at the results from a web site, direct mail and cold calling, the phone looks like the most likely way I can get to a presentation appointment.

I know it is the old fashioned way of doing things but it looks like it still works better than anything. I also know how facebook seeded its traffic and that wasn't on the web. It looks like it copied part of the Harvard student body email list and used that as a direct marketing campaign.

And what about Apple? Why do they need all those glitzy old way of doing things advertizing such as broadcast media? They're on the web and isn't that all it takes? Apparently not.

Okay. From a different viewpoint, I'm just too busy to buy anything myself. I'd like to have a nice phone headset for cold calling but I'm too busy to go find one. If someone would just call me and ask what I'm doing and suggest that people doing similar things use brand X, I'm likely to buy it just because I don't want to take the time to find a product myself. But unfortunately, no one calls me.

So do I consider my own market the way I consider myself? No. I think they are stupid for not finding my web site and jumping for glee. Not only that, I already have their name and phone number.

I would have to be brain dead not to call them. Maybe that's the problem.

Roger - by rkovack
Did the Ford Motor Company change the way a sales person did business? Of course it did. Did Alexander Graham Bell change the way a sales person did business? Yes, of course he did. But did the automobile or telephone cause the person to person, face to face sales to die? Of course it didn't! They are tools just as the internet is a tool for a good sales person to use. Nothing will ever replace that intimate sales transaction. That one on one, I can look you in the eye, I like you, trust you and therefore I will buy from you way of doing business! At least that is my opinion. - by MPrince
No technology can ever replace personal sales. - by temitope
Technology gives us great advantages for time saving in all our work aspects, but sales are made (different from order taking) when a salesperson calls on prospects and gives them reasons to buy a product or service. --Jerry Bresser

Excellent point Jerry. Thank you for jumping in and getting this thread rolling. - by Jeff Blackwell
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