Home > Personal Selling > In honour of 30,00 posts - an exciting article

In honour of 30,00 posts - an exciting article

In the 90's many cried out about their new sales strategies, beating their drums in a cry for their own self importance. There was even a book published with this title;

"Selling in the Nineties!"

Then we rolled into a new millennium and, sure enough, history repeated itself. Many forum posters and authors of blogs, e-zines, and books regarding sales skills and sales training began beating their drums again with a new slogan;

"Selling in the new millennium"

I read comments like; "that doesn't work any longer" or; “cold calling is no longer effective” or; “the Internet will generate all the leads you need” (so why cold call?) and, even simpler references like; "the old way", two of these are just demeaning of what our profession has done in the past and the other two are simply not true.

None of these speakers or authors seemed to clarify that only a portion or fragment of sales training was off-track, it was clear, we had either all been out to lunch and/or things had radically changed. Human beings overnight (in terms of the ages) had suddenly evolved, yah .. as if!

I must say it is often amusing for those of us who know better to have to listen to or read this stuff but it becomes alarming to discover that some professional sales training firms are adding fuel to this. And, in regards to that, for once in my life I was nearly totally lost for words or have been. I realize now that I am guilty of the same thing (nearly), simply shaking my head at such notions but not proving them wrong, just as they don’t prove what they say to be valid.

That is what thus BLOG is an attempt to do, to properly vocalize that which I would fight through the rest of me career to correct.

In addition to the humor invoked by watching this mirror image of the decade before, this repetition of history, it is equally laughable to see it work all over again - the same as it did before – only this time on a new generation. The joke is lost however, when you realize this ideology has gotten traction, which will in some ways hurt selling forever.

The bottom line is there are very few compelling arguments in support of such comments (those I listed at the top of this blog/article), it is why they are simply accepted by sales people that is at the center of why our great profession is suffering and will suffer even more if not addressed professionally.

Let me be clear; there is no actual quotable research proving that buyers are more knowledgeable about sales people’s selling techniques one decade to another. It did not exist in the 90’s or at the turn of the millennium.

We could now define this wide spread acceptance of what is little more than unsupported doctrine as ‘true gospel’. At least that is how the followers seem to treat it.

It is your living at stake. If we are to believe what anyone tells us without proof, then we stand to loose income as a result, right? Why then have so many done just that? It amazes me that a profession that must prove what it shares with its prospective clients does not need proof of a new and radical selling idea’s validity!

In my opinion, there is no way to go on and prove that these concepts are invalid without first revealing why this anomaly of ‘the blind following the blind’ is taking place. But before we get to that, let me say a few things;

(1) If the truth that directly affects how much you can make doesn’t matter to you, then so be it. If, however, it does, you best be searching a little harder for a proven and well supported road to follow rather than just concepts that are unproven!

(2) I could do it too. I could employ Marketing 101 techniques to effectively fool people into believing a *******ization of the truth … just to sell books or website subscriptions or courses. I could tell you and others what they are more apt to believe – what they have come to expect in terms of sales skills and selling methodology but I won’t because I also have to live with myself. This means that those who are teaching this NEW AGE stuff must believe their own B.S.!

(3) Sales 2.0 or 3.1 (or whatever they are calling it now) as a whole maybe the worst information about our profession that was ever published. And there are other examples of what we now call “New Age Selling” when it comes to sales training materials and teachings – they are all every bit as misleading.

Here is what you need to know; if the training information you are evaluating is not supported by on-call observation, what is often called “charting”, the group that is teaching you is either using training that was ‘stolen’ and modified or they are filling your head with nothing more than ‘opinion’, as their ideology is un-supported by fact.

That there were fascinating sales teachers 60 years ago and longer that preached non invasive sales skills is undeniable fact. And yet we hear “that doesn’t work any more” as a method of agreement rather than statement in reference to “hard nosed pushy salesmanship.”

Yes, there were sales training schools that were offensive (and still are). The point is, they were not the top producers – pushy salesmanship is unprofessional and always has been. And, still, throughout history there is a time and a place to “push” your prospect through the process but, that is not quite the same thing is it?

Over 50 years ago a sales trainer was recorded on an old 78 LP (vinyl record) explaining how people’s VALUES come to be. We know that what we are made of, other than our flesh, begins with the opinions passed on to us by our parents, that we are then influenced by other family, friends and the media, as well as the law. In other words, most of what makes us who we are, apart from our propensity to be out going or more or less nervous or confident in general (in other words that which we are born with), is not decided by us.

Your core values are more or less borrowed. Yes, you get to decide if you want to believe what your parents believed but most of what is YOU was ingrained in you from a time you can no longer remember up until more recent times.

Now, if you lived through your parent saying “I hate car salesman” or; “I hate that lousy salesman” or; I hate pushy sales people” or, worse; “I hate salesman” then, as a kid, without any experience to prove differently, you either thought your parent(s) were nuts or you believed it.

Roll the camera forward 20 years, you have finished College or University, gotten a job, worked your way up the ladder, been offered outside sales for your company and now, deep inside of you, as part of your psyche, part of who you are, you have this VALUE that your parents impressed upon you. How are you going to deal with the fact that sales position offered you a better living but deep down you hate sales people???

Take it one step further. Your impressions of sales practices are such that you believe being aggressive in conversation, almost pushy is the norm. Now you have to decide how to be;

(A) That which you would not like to be, or;

(B) Different.

Then you hear “that doesn’t work any longer” and BINGO, you are so glad you heard this information that you lap it all up. It sounds attractive, you don’t have to be like that unwanted sales person you remember from being a child or teenager when you father or mother got upset. Great!

Or maybe you were trained by someone who taught aggressiveness? Maybe you were not trained at all in sales skills and all you remember is what your parents said and the few times you have had bad experiences yourself. Whatever the reason for your negative impression of salesmanship, you felt you were going to be different, right?

Clearly I am guessing. I don’t actually know you. I can’t ask you questions to understand what makes you tick but I think you get where I am going with this, at least to some degree.

The point is, if you have a propensity to believe that old sales skills no longer work, when you boil that right down you either will find that you had a preconceived notion of sales that was negative, instilled on you as a value from your parents values (or friends) and/or you are misinformed about what the greats were teaching decades ago!

The likelihood is a combination of both.

My life is interesting, at least in regards to what made me what I am. My Dad was a professional sales trainer and he was able to meet and spend time with the greats from the 60’s, this because he won a National Sales Contest in 1963 in a company that was then a worldwide leader in its industry.

Some people have read my stuff. They might wonder idly why when comparing sales training I do not go back beyond the 60’s, it is for a solid reason, as I assume you will agree. You see, the phone was not prevalent on every executive’s desk until we had direct inward dialing (DID) technology, which was invented and implemented in this time period. This means that modern salesmanship started then – there was no Internet yet but prospecting and business in general definitely changed forever with the phone.

Before the 60’s it was impossible to make appointments on the phone with all of your prospects. Thus, the sales person “dropped in” un-appointed. Subsequently they wasted much of their time but, more importantly, they did things differently. For that reason and for the sake of fair comparisons, it works better to talk sales in the post-DID technology (phone) era.

When I talk about training and show the masters were very good at understanding the needs and pain (we did not use this term then, also for good reason) of a prospect, that they knew how to sell value, showing the prospect what benefits of their service or product directly addressed each need, one at a time, as they uncovered them from asking the prospect questions, the purpose is to dispel the notion of “the old way”.

At this stage in this article I want to say this;


We, as people and sales professionals, are not daily aware of our CORE VALUES, of how we think like our Dad or Mom did. We are just busy being ourselves but that does not mean we are not a product of the past, if I can put it that way.

In fact, some of us actually want to believe that we are different. And, even though all of us try not to speak with the voice of our parents, we still have their values in our core belief system, at least to a great degree.

The fact that we are individuals is the YING and YANG of this. What I am saying is we are both a product of upbringing and our own people, clearly. This is not a break through in psychology, far from it. It is an article about how our psyche influences what we are willing to believe.

It is this individualism that feeds into the belief that “we” created Sales 2.0 or any other notion about sales that suggests that “the old way” doesn’t work. And, since it ‘fits’ our belief system, we are ready to accept without ever thinking of questioning this new information.

If our belief system was like mine, that professional salesmanship was not some pushy or mind controlling thing, then such statements would not ‘fit’ in your values, you would have done what you should have done, questioned this dogma!

All of us need to give our heads a shake if we think we have invented anything in the last decade in regards to mastering communications that was not known even as far back as Socrates, let alone last decade. For those of us living in North America, our belief systems are traceable back many generations across hundreds of years, back to where we as a family came from, be that Europe, India, Asia or Africa. There is nothing about us as a race through time that proves an ability to suddenly learn and adapt any better than we ever did before.

We survived the ice age and that took some serious adaptation. But it did not happen overnight (it took thousands of years for the ice sheet to come and go!). By comparison, sales, at least selling since the advent of DID technology - call it the phone era, has taken place overnight.

There is no brilliant mind that stands out in sales in these last two decades. No Carnegie, no Nightingale, no Edwards. All we have is Rackham (SPIN) and what is left over from those three past greats (Tom Hopkins is an Edwards prodigy).

If Sales 2.0 or any other sales school was amazing, we would all know who that person was. The fact that we don’t is a big clue. But the fact that our values and individualism are such that we, or a great majority of us, were willing to believe in anything that says “the old way” doesn’t work without questioning it, is a much bigger clue.

You say; “Prospects know more” and we (those who had a value system that was not negative towards salesmanship) say “Great!”

I have heard this phrase directly and indirectly expressed in a way that indicates that prospects know what we are doing, that they don’t like it. Hmmm … really?

The greats, if they were alive, might say; “Well, all I am doing is helping them get what they need, if you seriously think prospects don’t want me or other sales people to do that … well … I am left scratching my head! What do they want?”

How do they want us to treat them?

Most of these arguments deny that there are two people (minimum) in every sales situation. So-called sales trainers and sales pundits say all this stuff that is one sided. This is ludicrous but the issue is; many of the current new generation of salespeople are buying into it. If it were not for that then this article would not need writing.

None of the current crew are thinking; “Well … hold on a minute, if a buyer feels so strongly that they don’t like selling skills how do they expect us to learn what they need?”

When we begin to break this down, there is no professional buyers that do not want us to ask questions, they expect and require us to understand their needs. Questions are a part of understanding, a basic of communications. So, that can’t be what they don’t like.

I am certain that every buyer has a horror story of how the sales guy went on and on instead of confirming that the buyer was ready to proceed or at least not proceed – so they can leave. Meaning, the buyer requires us to ask for the order too.

If a buyer MISUNDERSTANDS what the feature of a product is and therefore whether it will benefit us, he/she ought to want us to straighten out that misunderstanding, so they can see the real value and the true benefits to them, in order to make a good decision. This is dealing with attitudes.

So, as a recap, the buyer needs us to find out if it is a yes or no – to close, they also expect us to ask questions – to probe, they also want us to correct misunderstandings – to deal with their various attitudes. So, what part don’t they like???

I will tell you now what they don’t like;

They don’t like it when you are not good enough!

Do you still seriously believe that people who bought products 50 years ago liked it when a sales person was not aware of their feelings? That they liked pushy behavior? Of course not, so what has changed?

Could it be that salesmanship – the real deal – has been taught throughout the ages, first being handed off to apprentices, then through books and then through video and now through Internet that makes sense. And at the same time there has been stuff taught that none of us would accept and call professional sales techniques, that we are still getting our heads filled with baloney, even now?

Could it be that buyers have always been smart?

Surely then, you are not willing to admit that we adapted as a race in the last decade or two in a way that would have us surviving an ice age that took a decade instead of several thousand years?

Do you real expect anyone to believe that an understanding of something that has not been known throughout time evolved in your lifetime?

It didn’t. There have been great trainers since before you were alive, who would still be top producers in sales today of they still with us. And, though the Internet is a means of buyers finding out about you as well as a means of advertising it is also can be a waste of time.

Phoning executives the right way works and the wrong way is upsetting.

Saying my time is more aptly spent doing more productive things than cold calling is like saying; if I have free time in the day I refuse to pick up the phone or walk into an office.

I could go on. If all I have done so far is make you think “Hold on, maybe there was a way to be in sales that was not offensive long before I got involved in this profession and I just didn’t know it” then you would be right and I have done my job.

Oh, and before wrapping this up let me say these things;

(i) The bit about values, it is obviously true for prospects too. Meaning they have a value system you must fit into if you are to get the sale – this is a fair argument for mirroring (but is not why I brought it up). And;

(ii) Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling is great stuff, that firm he owns, called Huthwaite, they have done the most on-call observation ever in sales, no one else is even close. The area they are weak on is two fold; the close is still an event, and; the LOW REACTOR.

(iii) PAIN is not felt in all needs, sorry, it just isn’t. NEED is a better term than PAIN for this reason, which I do not intend to explain here. Having said that, whether you think in terms of NEED, PAIN or HOT BUTTONS, as long as you are finding them and showing the prospect how you can address them, you will get lots of sales.

(iv) All sales schools I have studied have strengths and weaknesses. That does not mean you ought not to take sales training courses, as long as they don’t try and tell you “that doesn’t work any longer”.

I trust this article did the trick. Best of luck always,
Steven Burke - by Gold Calling
The message that I want to perceive from Steven's post is that the principles of selling have never changed. All of us are at times guilty of selective perception, and if that is the main thrust of the post--that the principles cannot change, I'm happy. But I want to add some things into the broth.

First, it is WE who are ultimately responsible for our own learning. If people who choose to train, write about, or educate, have a responsibility, it is to Get It Right.

Well-founded sales tactics and techniques--those dating back not just 60 years, but centuries--have been scutinized too often by shallow minds that never had the Basis of Understanding of what was behind the principles. In most cases, what these minds have engaged to attack is the Transparency in Usage of these techniques. The rampant omission helped create a market for the New Age self-proclaimed experts Steven talks about.

The problem is that the transparency is out there. I'll give two reasons. First, things are often taught by people who don't understand the underlying reason behind what they are teaching. The great trainers teach not only What, but Why.

In the words he is most remembered for, J. Douglas Edwards gave us the What: "When you ask a closing question, SHUT UP." Then he gave us the Why: "The first one who talks, LOSES."

Reason two has to do with a certain category of hard work called LEARNING.

Some of us have been blessed to have worked alongside world class salespeople. Those of us who gained from it listened for more than what was being said--they listened for what was being done.

Almost every single fancy-dancy close, that has been held over from the early days of selling, holds up today. Almost all the stuff that the technique afficionados love to rap about here-works. It works for professionals who learned the principle behind the tactic, assimilated, and removed the transparency.

People, it's not about training. Nobody can spoon feed you your education in sales. It's about learning--and learning is work. Learning is work because you have to learn below the surface. Tom Hopkins talked about an ultimate goal of Self-Actualization. Our greatest tool in selling is our brains, not our mouths.

Those are my thoughts, and I commend Steven for the work he puts into his posts. - by Ace Coldiron
See what ACE said; "Learning is work!"

We, as professionals, can choose the path least traveled. You can master selling and its least understood practices of prospecting, including the use of the 500 pound phone - but you have to want it bad. You have to be able to taste success.

If the desire is truly there and you wish to embrace the how and the why, the masters of selling and communications, dating as far back as Socrates and those published more recently Carnegie, Nightingale and Edwards, they will teach you. Even now from beyond the grave so to speak ...

Selling didn't need to change. It is our own need for self importance and our value systems that fool us into believing differently. In fact, these two factors are so powerful amongst some of us that we do not even question statements like "the old way" or "that doesn't work any more".

Incredibly, highly intelligent people hear these things and don't even ask "WHY?" If you try and answer this question, supporting that change was and is required in selling, and if that answer does not contain anything but opinion, it is time for you to seek proof. And, guess what, you will not be able to find it!

I can develop proof that bad selling upsets off prospects ... sure. But I cannot produce proof that mastery of our profession using skills that Socrates enlightened us on has ever caused someone to say "I hate sales people!"

Ace writes elegantly, his insight is terrific. We are lucky to have him, Skip and many others participating here at this forum. They are all here for you ... I don't even train sales people very often any longer and yet I put this effort in for one reason; because you have the right to know the truth.

Consider the source.

When information comes along you must consider the source. When new ideas like social networking take a lot of productive time to test out, test them in your spare time, as homework, like you did when you were in school. Put in EXTRA effort .... if you plan mailers do them after hours too.

"Learning is work!" Too right Ace!

Instead of marketing or direct marketing try selling. Instead of spending time check PPC (pay-per-clkick) ad campaigns durignteh day, try selling. Do all that extra stuff in your spare time ... you will be glad you did.

Good luck. - by Gold Calling
It works for professionals who learned the principle behind the tactic ...
After thinking about this comment a bit I realized that this is at the core of what I am saying. It brings back a question J. Douglas Edwards asked in training; "Are you good enough to do this one?" ...

Attempts at various techniques of communications fail before they are perfected or improved until you are "good enough" to use them. How many forum contributors, knowing this, actually role play? How many use their significant others as buyers, to speak the things they have heard the masters say on an audio out loud before trying them in real situations?

How many sales training sessions have you done this year in your company with role playing ... or even in your whole career?

Actors practice - since sales is a performing art, why don't we have "takes" also?

"Professionals who learned the principle behind the" technique. It should be like second nature, you should know why and also be able to say it as best as you are able - then, the buyers does not sense a phony approach. Because you believe in what you are doing and mean what you say.

We could go on and on about this, literally writing a novel sized investigation of the fact that buyers don't know what we are doing, instead they are sensitive too bad salesmanship. People are very much in tune with what is going on and always have been.

Nothing has changed in selling except technology, what we do today is pretty much what we did since the advent of the phone, the only additions are the fax and the Internet, that is all that is new!

Now, this whole discussion could get lost talking about prospecting, about how people search for what they want online. And I can go on about that as well, at great length, explaining why serious B2B sales people must learn all forms of prospecting, including the use of the phone, but this does not alter this main argument.

When you are face to face with a prospective buyer, if you are good enough, you can use all the professional techniques of salesmanship that were ever invented, they have always worked!

Good luck. - by Gold Calling
When you are face to face with a prospective buyer, if you are good enough, you can use all the professional techniques of salesmanship that were ever invented, they have always worked!

Someone once said that every subject is two subjects. What you just said contains why people in sales succeed, and why people in sales fail. - by Ace Coldiron
It is two sided, there is a person across the desk and YOU!

Great buyers - usually accomplished Executives, often also Business Owners - keep meetings on track. This is necessary in those cases where a seller has great knowledge of what they do but relatively poor selling skills, like an engineer for instance.

I have seen these engineers being kept on track ... but if you beleive the selling profession is not just about bravado but actually to do with communication skills, you know; this is not the way professional selling is supposed to work but, many business owners, professionals and even poorly trained sales people simply don't know any better! - by Gold Calling
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