Home > Personal Selling > What would you have done?

What would you have done?

I started a thread with poll called Internet Marketing Training or Education and received a private message that lead to the following exchange of messages.

As you can see by the final message both myself and the other party thought this would be a good discussion to bring into the forum. Minus the niceties and contact information these are the exact messages.

After reading the exchange what is your opinion... would you have asked questions or pitched an offer based on assuming an interest or need?


Message #1 - Web Marketing Workshop:
I just commented on your question about internet marketing and I truly feel there is nothing more important in business right now.

You truly need to schedule yourself for an upcoming workshop. Please contact me [contact information removed].

You will not be dissapointed.
Message #1 - My Response:
The question I posted was to get an idea of what others are doing in the way of education. Nothing more.


Message #2 - HELLO HOUSTON:
I understand your question and I still feel you would benefit greatly from our consulting and one of our workshops.

Give me a shout when you want to get that edge.
Message #2 - My Response:
Since we haven't met what was it about my post that led you to feel I would benefit greatly from your consulting and one of your workshops?


Message #3 - BENEFIT:
Just about everyone in business, sales, marketing, etc. is searching for insight of how to be better and how to have more presence on the internet. Your comments throughout this forum proves you have that interest as well.

My company teaches internet marketing in all areas from SEO to Article Writing to true Traffice Analytics and integrates that into sales and lead generation.

It would definitely be money well spent.
Message #3 - My Response:
No offense but it's a bit ironic in my opinion that on a website dedicated to sales training you would pitch a product or service before asking a single question, qualifying or otherwise.


Message #4 - IF IT IS NOT FOR YOU IT IS COOL:
Everyone needs it...not everyone accepts it. The more versed you are with the internet as it is integrated into a sales career the better off you will be.

If I wrote an article that said I broke my shoelace and you happen to sell shoe laces....would you not try and talk to me about shoe laces??
Message #4 - My Response:
Before pitching any product or service to anyone I'd first ask that person a few well designed questions to determine if there was a perceived need among other things.


Message #5 - NEEDS:
I perceived the needs based on your comments from the forums.

Assume the sale!
Message #5 - My Response:
No offense, but in my opinion that's exactly the type of assumptive action that gives salespeople a bad name. Assuming I have a need and asking questions to validate your assumption is one thing. Pushing product based on nothing more than an assumption is misguided at best.


Message #6 - GOOD STUFF:
We will obviously agree to disagree but I would enjoy talking with you further about this topic b/c sales is all about showing a product or service to someone that can use the product or service. A good sales person will paint a picture of how their product and service will make that persons life and/or business better.

I am not going to try and sell a house to a 9 year old however, I am going to attempt to make every home owner aware that I was a Realtor. If you are a shoe lace salesperson and you run across someone that uses shoe laces as a good sales person you are going to make them aware of your product even though you know they have 50 pairs of shoe laces on back up....b/c you never know when they may want to try a different color or quality of lace.
Message #6 - My Response:
This would make for a great discussion in the forum. Would you be interested in starting a thread on what we've discussed?


Message #7 - YES:
That would be great....let's include the exact emails we have been communicating.
- by Houston
"After reading the exchange what is your opinion... would you have asked questions or pitched an offer based on assuming an interest or need?" -- Houston

Ask first!

MitchM - by MitchM
In that case....what do you guys do when you ask first and they say NO?

Houston, for example, you have a need for what I was talking to you about however, you may not have an interest....my job is to show you the value so that you get interested.

Again, Insurance Agents are not going to pitch Life Insurance to a 12 year old and Pharmaceutical Reps are not going to call on Construction Workers. True sales is about knowing your product or service and then knowing every single Business or Consumer in your territory that currently use, can use and/or benefit from what you provide. - by rwilfong
When a "closed probe" is utilized, there is the opportunity to receive a negative response. But to assume the sale without some ground being covered in advance risks offending the suspect (you've assumed that you've got a prospect in front of you).

For the strong SR out there, it is a known fact that you can lead a suspect through a series of questions which will NOT elicit a negative response. "Open probes" are questions which tend to make the account feel that you're genuinely interested in their business.

Closed probe: "will you be making changes to your phone infrastructure this quarter?"
Open probe: "what elements are included when you cost-out a telco supplier?"

If you took the first approach, you might definitely be cooling your heels at McDonald's. You must admit that the latter probing technique doesn't leave the prospect feeling that he's being manipulated into a close. In point of fact, it is extremely difficult to find out about someone's business needs with closed probes.

The closed probe, however, is very effective when you've got a "low reactor" in front of you (simply isn't responding in a meaningful manner). Ultimatley, though, you'll find yourself back in open probes once you're over the hump.

The experienced SRs out there are seeking objections in every meeting.

Good luck & Good selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales
In that case....what do you guys do when you ask first and they say NO?
Some people in this forum believe you should ask questions to see if the prospect is interested in doing business with you.

But the effective use of questions in selling is much broader. You ask questions to engage the prospect so you can learn more about him/her and his situation, and so your prospect can develop trust in you.

I think the problem in the scenario that Houston described it is that there was absolutely no engagement whatsoever; it was a prescription without a diagnosis. Some salespeople merely look for warm bodies and when they find one, they PRESENT their product/service. A presentation should almost never occur before a needs/desires analysis. In the scenario, there was no needs analysis, just a self-centered salesperson hoping someone would hop on board.

Skip Anderson - by Skip Anderson
my job is to show you the value so that you get interested." -- rwilfong

Since you define your job that way, rwilfong, describing how you would get someone interested might open this up to a telling discussion.

How will you do it?

MitchM - by MitchM
Outsource

Very true....without objections there is no selling. However, you cannot start getting objections without finding out who your Prospects are within your territory.

Beautiful probing questions however, let us not forget that individual is a prospect even though they may not be doing something within the next quarter. Introducing them to new Telephony applications on a regular basis by phone, email and direct mail is a necessity for your prospect base.

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
Skip

Needs and Interests are 2 different things. The prospects that are in my Pipeline all have the needs for my product/service at some point in the future, it is my job as a professional sales person to get them interested in my particular products/services when they decide it is time.

TOP OF THE MIND AWARENESS!

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
Mitch M

If I understand your question correctly, it is simple: I have a territory and I know every person or business in my territory that can use what I offer at some point in the future. Now that I have that list of people and/or businesses I introduce myself and business to those individuals and attempt to get as much information out of them regarding their needs and buying cycle as relates to my particular product/service.

I will then proceed to follow up with them through a CRM customized to my business and my needs so that when they are ready to ask questions and/or pull the trigger...I AM THOUGHT OF FIRST...TOP OF THE MIND AWARENESS.

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
"Very true....without objections there is no selling" -- Rory

Would you say this is an absolute or law of sales success? The next question is" why are objections necessary to sell?

MitchM - by MitchM
Skip

...it is my job as a professional sales person to get them interested in my particular products/services when they decide it is time.

TOP OF THE MIND AWARENESS!

Rory Wilfong
In my opinion, the way to "get them interested" in you is for you to first "get interested" in them.

Skip Anderson - by Skip Anderson
Mitch

The sale always begins at NO....If someone tells you YES there is no need to sell!!

As long as there are sales reps and consumers....objections will always happen for various reasons. Some have more objections than others, but they still exist. This is why objection handling (role playing) is an essential part of ongoing sales training.

The sooner you get to the true objections of your prospect....the sooner they will become a client.

Success,

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
Skip

Very True....The only way to get interested in them is to know everything about them as they are in your territory however, you need to know what kind of prospect they are easy, moderate, hard. You should know how your closing skills are going to be utilized for each of your prospects.

Success,

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
Skip

Another thing....no matter how much you have interest in them, you must never let them forget you.

Success,

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
"The sale always begins at NO....If someone tells you YES there is no need to sell!!" -- Rory

We live in different sales worlds, Rory. If the infinitive "to sell" means the infinitives "to overcome objections, to convince, to uncover hidden needs, and to get them interested" then what you call "to sell" is an activity geared around those kinds of conditions.

My infinitive "to sell" means "to find people who are already convinced, to find out if that person is trustworthy, to determine if mutual conditions of satisfaction can be met, and to complete the sales process and transaction at every stage of the buying decision.

My sales most of the time begin with a YES then comes the heart of the selling process which is much more than a simple transaction - it's a serious communication process that has to happen before the transaction takes place. The psychology of this process is dynamic and in line with age old selling techniques and practices even though it's also been called a new process - its newness is only a result of comparisions and or over sights.

All of that being said. my point here is to not disparage anyone who is finding success using what they use in making a sale; rather, it's to further a discussion that is important for those new at sales to view and ponder.

MitchM - by MitchM
MitchM

I could not agree with you more and these exchanges are for the sole purpose of relaying professional sales skills.

With that being said, I am curious....if someone is already convinced then exactly what type of selling do you need to do. It sounds more like Customer Service if you are working off of an immediate Yes??

I would enjoy knowing more about what you sell and exactly what you mean in your last comment.

Success,

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
Rory -

A common interpretation of what I posted is that with a simple YES comes a simple "key in code, collect exchange units, hand over the goods." Not so!

I sell unique nutritional supplements. The first YES is that the person wants what I offer already sold on the value of nutritional supplementation and it's health/wellness necessity.

So someone says "YES I want to feel better and I believe nutritional supplementation can help people feel better so I want your products."

This happened a couple of weeks ago when my wife's brother called saying a gal he'd met was sick and wanted to try our nutrition. We called her and she said she wanted to try our products.

Next, we - mostly my wife in this case - go to know her to find out if she was sincere and there was trust and respect that could be mutually estabished through an honest question and answer dialogue.

Also, Shirley gave her information she wanted to validate she was making a good decision and in turn Shirley was "reading her" to determine that what we had could deliver what she was looking for - that's crucial. You could call these things mutual conditions of satisfaction.

In that process which can take a couple of phone calls we use live introductions to satisfied customers for further all around validation - this also further identifies the potential customer's commitment by engaging in our process.

In other words a "YES I want that" doesn't cause us to make the sale to Order Entry to process a quick sale. There has to be a commitment to our process for us to go forward with a potential customer and likewise, the customer has to know that we are equally comitted.

Following the sale - once the products have been shipped by our company - we do a minimum of thirty days follow-up the customer has agreed to do with us. Without that commitment we make very few sales. Our follow-up process is calling back to make sure products are being used properly, answering questions and supplying more information when necessary, and making a few more introductions to satisfied customers to validate the products.

Using that system for twelve years now with our company has proven itself, Rory.

MitchM - by MitchM
Houston, for example, you have a need for what I was talking to you about however, you may not have an interest....my job is to show you the value so that you get interested.
Who says I have a need? :dun - by Houston
Who says I have a need? :dun
Bingo! Excellent, Houston.

In selling, "a need" is not a need if it exists only in the mind of the salesperson.

Skip Anderson - by Skip Anderson
Houston
As I stated before most people have the need....they may not be interested however, that is the purpose of the sales person is to create interest by showing a way that benefits their business model and end goals.

Success,

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
Skip

However, the creative Sales Person will look at their entire territory and see beyond the obvious "No Brainer" relationship built sales and find people that have a need but do not realize it.

For example: A copier sales person may see a Very Small Business that is constantly going to a place to make their copiers so that creative sales rep will attempt to show them how they can save money and how it would be a huge benefit to have a system at their location.

Again we are not selling Life Insurance to a 5 year old or Medical Devices to an Attorney....the needs are created by people's habits and it is up to us to show them how to make their life easier based on those habits.

Success,

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
MitchM

So the YES is actually not a YES however, it is a great indication of their needs and wants so that you can develop your complete process.

I get it and think we are saying the same thing.

Success,

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
Houston's original question was:

"After reading the exchange what is your opinion... would you have asked questions or pitched an offer based on assuming an interest or need?"

rwilfong, from your posts, it's clear that your answer to Houston's question would be: "pitch an offer based on assuming an interest or need."

I, however, would recommend that salespeople ask questions instead, to uncover needs and understand the prospect and his/her situation before you pitch a solution.

We'll have to agree to disagree. - by Skip Anderson
For example: A copier sales person may see a Very Small Business that is constantly going to a place to make their copiers so that creative sales rep will attempt to show them how they can save money and how it would be a huge benefit to have a system at their location.
In your current example how did the salesperson decide which benefits to present? - by Houston
Skip

I do not necessarily disagree with what you are saying however, my job is to discover people that have needs or have a potential of having a need before they contact me. Once they contact me their expectations are already created....and I have to play "catch up" at that point.

Success,

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
Houston

Very simple...there are several: First of all trigger question is...Do you enjoy going to Kinko's to make copies?? Then proceed to the FABs of having their own system. Price they are paying for the time to travel to the remote location to make copies; the cost that location charges you; the fact that they may need other office equipment; etc.

Sales a lot of times is as simple as showing someone a better and more profitable way of doing things without you necessarily being provoked. Most businesses and/or consumers do not realize that there is a better way until someone opens their eyes and shows them.

Success,

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
Houston

Very simple...there are several: First of all trigger question is...Do you enjoy going to Kinko's to make copies?? Then proceed to the FABs of having their own system. Price they are paying for the time to travel to the remote location to make copies; the cost that location charges you; the fact that they may need other office equipment; etc.

Sales a lot of times is as simple as showing someone a better and more profitable way of doing things without you necessarily being provoked. Most businesses and/or consumers do not realize that there is a better way until someone opens their eyes and shows them.

Success,

Rory Wilfong
I'm a believer in "questions are the answer". Besides determining if the person you're engaging is someone you want to/can do business with questions help the prospect identify, verbalize and clarify needs, buying criteria and other key issues.

If the prospect doesn't perceive a need then there is no need to fill. Even if there is a need if the prospect can't manage the 'change' then there will be no sale.

With this perspective in mind I believe that "pitching a solution of your choosing" prior to engaging the prospect through questioning is poor selling and not recommended. - by Houston
I'm a believer in "questions are the answer". Besides determining if the person you're engaging is someone you want to/can do business with questions help the prospect identify, verbalize and clarify needs, buying criteria and other key issues.

If the prospect doesn't perceive a need then there is no need to fill. Even if there is a need if the prospect can't manage the 'change' then there will be no sale.

With this perspective in mind I believe that "pitching a solution of your choosing" prior to engaging the prospect through questioning is poor selling and not recommended.
Houston, I couldn't agree with you more. Well said. - by Skip Anderson
Houston and Skip

Questions and Listening are very important aspects of sales and that is not even in question.

However, it appears that you guys have the attitude that if the individual does share interest in you for being questioned then you do not even attempt to ask questions. It is your job to go to people that have a need that do not realize and begin to listen and then ask questions.

Like you Houston for example, you have a need and I have listened to your objections and you still may not have any interest, but you still have a need.

A good sales person can determine who has a need for their product/service before that individual comes to them. It sounds like you guys wait for prospects to come to you....instead of you getting them.

Success,

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
Prospecting is important. Prospecting is the process of finding viable customers, it's true. But I didn't think we were discussing prospecting.

But in selling, once you have identified a prospect, I believe that salespeople will benefit if they identify needs and desires of their prospects, and then present solutions to those specific needs and desires.

But in contrast, from your posts, I believe your methodology is this: Present your products or services to people that YOU think have a need in hopes someone will buy. IMO, one reason so many prospects are resistant to salespeople is because they've been sold in that manner before and didn't like it. And it just doesn't work all that well, either. - by Skip Anderson
Skip

We are always talking about prospecting. And you obviously do not understand my points and the various comments throughout my posts.

When you are selling a product or service it is presented to anyone in your territory that has an obvious need, possible need or someone who's life or business could be made better because of your product or service. You are right....being sold something that is not wanted or needed should never happen and does give sales people a bad name and that has not been my points what-so-ever.

A good sales rep knows everything about everyone that could benefit from their product or service within that sales reps territory. Like I have said many times before....if you wait for someone to tell you they have a need because you were too BLIND to see that need yourself in your own territory....It may be too late.

You are simply getting confused by Needs and Interests.

Success,

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
I have nothing to add to this discussion that I haven't already posted. ;pi - by Houston
Agreed....I am just repeating my points

Success,

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
Skip

We are always talking about prospecting.
No, we aren't always talking about prospecting. After you find a prospect, you have to sell, and much of this forum and this thread is dedicated to that topic.

And you obviously do not understand my points and the various comments throughout my posts.
I understand them, Rory, I don't agree with you however.


When you are selling a product or service it is presented to anyone in your territory that has an obvious need, possible need or someone who's life or business could be made better because of your product or service. You are right....being sold something that is not wanted or needed should never happen and does give sales people a bad name and that has not been my points what-so-ever.
Here's one area about which we disagree.

I believe that, before a presentation, a salesperson should get a prospect to verbalize his/her needs, which may or may not include your product. By asking carefully crafted questions, you get to know your prospect and you get to know more about their situation. As you uncover needs and desires to which your product could help them, THEN, and only then, do you present your product. Otherwise, you're just like a door-to-door salesperson selling widgets, hoping that the next person will buy because you've already decided that everyone that you're talking to needs your product.

Houston's original question in this thread was "After reading the exchange, what is your opinion... would you have asked questions or pitched an offer based on assuming an interest or need?"

I have argued for asking questions. You have argued for pitching your product based upon assuming the need. That's where you and I disagree. The salesperson who asks questions will sell a ton more than the person who chooses pitching based upon an assumed need, in my opinion.


A good sales rep knows everything about everyone that could benefit from their product or service within that sales reps territory.
Agreed.

Like I have said many times before....if you wait for someone to tell you they have a need because you were too BLIND to see that need yourself in your own territory....It may be too late.
Your job is to get your prospect to verbalize their need. If you can't do that, you're not going to maximize your sales. Period. You're not selling, you're just pitching hoping someone will buy, a very inefficient sales methodology. The needs and wants analysis is perhaps the most important part of the selling process. The analysis happens with the prospect. Your analysis to decide who to call on is a prospecting analysis and is a different process altogether. Both are necessary processes, but you're skipping one of them.

The interaction Houston highlighted in his original post in this thread is a textbook example of how not to sell, yet you're supporting it as the proper way to sell.

You are simply getting confused by Needs and Interests.
Success,

Rory Wilfong
I don't believe I'm confused.

But I do believe that if me or someone like me worked with you for one month to refine your process, your sales would dramatically increase.

I'll leave that as my last word on this topic. I commend Houston for starting this thread and want to thank him for the first post which was very well written.

Skip Anderson - by Skip Anderson
Rory, it's not a question of waiting to find a need or even responding to a perceived "obvious need". Long term success in sales will not come from pitching when you see a need that fits your offering.

Yes, it is critical that you "assume the sale" but that doesn't mean that you attempt a close because you think you see a fit. As a young SR, I remember doing exactly that and sometimes getting the order. However, when I began to make 2-man calls with the SSRs in the branch, I saw something: they would probe, listen, probe, listen, probe some more, listen some more. When they were ready to close, it was frequently for a much more complex configuration then that which seemed obvious earlier in the call!

This approach also tends to draw the SR closer to the account because the probing included aspects of the business which I never thought of investigating.
>> when is your fiscal year end?
>> which projects are currently funded?
>> if you could improve on your vendor relations, precisely what changes would you find appealing?
>> when you've changed suppliers in the past, what criteria formed the basis of your decision for change?

In another post, I shared a win from my Xerox days where I made President's Club in December with a HUGE installation (which was done over the Christmas holidays). Everyone before me in the patch had walked away from the account because they needed a hi-end duplicator but they simply couldn't afford it. They had all tried to sell them a smaller unit to do the everyday copying. I stuck with it by asking questions about their business, outside printing, publishing, ect. Then it hit me: I had another account on blocks away in this same situation! I presented the concept of combining their needs into one solution. We looked at outside printing, binding, sorting, and walk-up copying. The savings portrayed in the final presentation were sufficient to hire an operator for the high-end copier!

Rory, if I'd followed my "young SR" instincts in this instance, I would have perhaps sold 2 small units (one to each org'n). But I hung tuff, did the skunkworks to uncover contributing volume (ie. outside costs) to further cost-justify the new unit.

You appear to have the idea and the energy to make it work ... you're not missing the mark by much. I'd strongly suggest that you channel some of that energy via formal training. You'll be stunned at the results!

Good luck & Good selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales
To All....My Final Thoughts:

If you truly read every word for word throughout this entire thread you will realize we are talking about the same thing just with different approaches, that are each very successful. No one is above learning more to improve their trade (i.e. Tiger Woods) and I can assure you guys there are several techniques you would learn from me to fine tune your skills. When we stop learning, we are done!!

Sales is not carved in stone however, it is an ever-changing, situational model that you must adapt to your personality to provide the best information to each client for a long term business relationship.

Our thread may have confused readers to the previous paragraph.

Success,

Rory Wilfong - by rwilfong
Rory, it's apparent that you're convinced that your approach works. At the start, it always seems to be enough just to get out there and bash on doors.

Your final post, though, provides an interesting insight into your communications style. You make it very clear that you believe in your approach (which is important) but you clearly are resistant to the comments from the "grey hair" community.

Your use of bolding is tantamount to yelling but in print: "I can assure you guys there are several techniques you would learn from me to fine tune your skills".

Your assumption about people not having followed the essence of the thread provides another insight into your style.

My suggestion was provided with the best of intentions but was met with obstinance. In future threads, please take note that my comments will be to the rookies out there who care.

Let's talk again in 5 or 10 years to see how your approach stands up to the test of time.

Good luck & Good selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales
What I find very interesting is that both selling tactics exist in the market and are successful...to a certain extent.

From the perspective of the buyer, competitive pressures among vendors and the rise of the internet positions many products and services as commodities.

What does this mean and why is it important to sellers?
  1. The amount of vendor and product information on the internet allows for in depth comparative analysis of features, benefits, and vendors before a meeting with a salesperson is necessary
  2. Features, benefits and vendors are starting to look the same to buyers, so that leaves price as the only real differentiator in the buyer's mind
  3. This places downward pressure on profit margins as buyers beat up the salesperson on price or the transactional salesperson believes the only competitive advantage is price
Now here is where things get interesting.

I ask Sales Mangers and Sales Professionals "When you're in a competitive situation and it's down to you and two other vendors, what percentage of deals do you win?" The answer is usually somewhere around 33 percent or one in three. That means the Sales Representatives of the competing vendors are taking turns winning in competitive situations.

These numbers hold up when the vendors in the geographic market are all selling using transactional selling tactics. I need to point out here that when price is the only real differentiator the buyers are not loyal to any one vendor.

Consultative, strategic, and collaborative selling gained popularity through a few key landmark books that studied how elite high-performance Sales Professionals sell.

These sales tactics promoted the idea that vendors could differentiate themselves from competitors by transitioning their Sales Professionals away from transactional selling to value or solution selling. Meaning the Sales Professional repositioned themselves as a trusted or strategic adviser.

From a skill perspective Sales Professionals don't discuss their products or services (solutions) before having a discussion about the prospects business objectives, obstacles, solution performance requirements, and success metrics no matter how much experience they have in the industry.

Due to increased competition, these selling tactics became sales strategies that the vendors' Executives and Sales Mangers implemented to address several high priority business issues:
  1. How do we increase our win rates in competitive situations?
  2. How do we preserve margins?
  3. How do we reduce customer/client churn?
  4. How do we increase customer/client loyalty?
  5. How do we increase deal size?
  6. What does our market value?
  7. How do we increase market share?
  8. How do we reduce the cost of sales
Lets go back to the situation I described above where all the competing vendor's sales tactics are transactional. Once one of the vendors starts repositioning themselves as a trusted adviser their:
  1. Win rates in competitive situations dramatically increase
  2. They charge a premium for their products and services - profit margins go up
  3. Clients and prospects view the vendor as a valuable resource/partner - customer loyalty goes up and churn goes down
  4. Deal size increase due to selling full solutions
  5. Market share increase
  6. Cost of sales go down
This is a very long way of getting to the point that the era of selling products using tactics that assume an understanding of the prospects business without going through a questioning process that focuses on the prospect's business first, is rapidly coming to an end.

For the Salesperson who's sales tactics are transactional that find themselves competing against high-performance Sales Professionals who's sales tactics focus is on asking questions and becoming a trusted adviser, the competitive future is not bright.

It won't matter how many times the transactional Sales Representatives calls, leave voice mail messages, send letters, faxes, emails or meets with the prospect in an attempt to keep their name in front of them.

In a head-to-head competition a well trained Trusted Adviser will win almost every time. In fact transactional behaviors will only magnify the differentiation and value of the trusted adviser and the vendor they represent. This is about competing and winning. - by mnicksjr
Excellent post, Mnicksjr! - by Skip Anderson
mnicksjr, it certainly sounds like we're "in the same camp" in terms of probing for needs.

My reason for jumping-in relates to your quote: "This is a very long way of getting to the point that the era of selling products using tactics that assume an understanding of the prospects business without going through a questioning process that focuses on the prospect's business first, is rapidly coming to an end."

I really don't think that it's as much an "era" as it is an ongoing saga where skills training was either:
1. not delivered (ie. company doesn't believe in sales skills training); or,
2. not supported by the field (ie. poor adoption by SRs, no ongoing support, coaching, mentoring, etc.);

In either scenario above, the SR is out there hammerin' on doors ... winning some ... losing some. But really not understanding why (he's winning or losing) because the skill sets haven't been honed.

In all likelihood, the untrained SR has little understanding/empathy for the motivators-to-buy. Consequently, opportunities are being missed.

If the SR is in the B2B arena, it's also probably true that he's not spending sufficient time absorbing knowledge about the subleties of the businesses which he's visiting. In my experience, this is apparent when the SR attempts a "features dump" in front of an unexpecting decision-maker (without having earned the right). Or, fumbles through some "canned closes" with varying success. As a rookie, I can attest to the embarassment of such a misguided approach.

I've been in B2B sales for 38 years and I can tell you from experience that, in large part, the situation hasn't really changed. Thus my comment about it's not so much an "era" (which implies a concern which existed for a period of time), rather, there is a level of awareness wrt sales skills training. This awareness may have come from the number of studies out there but it's unclear to me.

I would venture, however, that the companies which are truly "sales training aware" are NOT in the majority. Consequently, I lecture the rookies to seek out companies who have an identifiable approach to sales skilles training with coaching/mentoring. These are best practices which are significant of great companies!

Good luck & Good selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales
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