From education to employment

Thinking of a career in sales when leaving education?

A career in sales in the past was never seen as an actual vocational choice, most salespeople just seemed to fall into the role, normally by taking a ‘fill in’ job in selling, and then found themselves well, ‘liking it’. Until relatively recently if you had a bubbly personality, a winning smile and could talk the preverbal hind legs of a donkey you were in!

But times have changed dramatically. Today’s salesperson needs completely different skill sets, a new and different breed of sales professional, namely a ‘Forensic Sales Expert’, as this article will explain.

The death of a salesman

When the late Arthur Miller wrote his Pulitzer Prize winning play in 1949 entitled The Death of a Salesman, he could not have possibly known that 66 years later in 2015 the title would almost become reality. Reality, because salespeople in the traditional sense are no longer required.

Back in 1949 in Arthur’s day, a ‘salesperson’ was a relationship builder, they would become his or her customer’s best friend, loyalty was everything, and for a customer to break that loyalty and buy elsewhere, or for the salesperson to sell to their competitors, well this was seen as unacceptable behaviour and a personal affront – not as a reasonable business decision.

But then things moved on. In the 70s it was a domain of the ‘wide boy’ market trader type who was not at all interested in your ‘needs’, or in building a ‘relationship’, it was all about the one-off sale, selling purely on emotion (negative emotion that is).

A classic example of that era was the door knocking double-glazing salesperson. They were kings of the ‘hard-sell’. They would literally sit with Mr and Mrs Jones in their homes until the early hours of the morning if necessary, until they broke them down and they reluctantly signed on the bottom line.

The salesperson, then leaving the home with the signed ‘contract’ in their hands, howling at the moon and skipping merrily down the street, whilst poor Mr and Mrs Jones were left exhausted and emotionally drained, and not really quite sure what they had actually bought.

Fortunately, we moved on from that, and in the late 80s selling became the realm of the ‘Consultative’ salesperson – the ‘needs matcher’, the professional who would ask lots of open-ended questions to find a hook that would enable them to delve deeper and find the ‘PAIN’ of their buyer.

Once this had been established, it was then just a case of following the path of: “So we have established the pain, what are the main problems or issues this pain causes you? And therefore, what are the further implications of those problems in terms of cost, time, production, etc?”

Once all that was in place, it was then simply a case of matching viable solutions to the needs, and ‘Bobs your Uncle’ job done!

The consultative approach is still used today, and still has a place, but in a very limited number of and type of customers.

Which brings me to my point, selling and influencing the buying process in large organisations in 2015 is no longer a case of face-to-face meetings and having in-depth discussions with the aim of finding ways in which both parties could mutually and profitably benefit each other.

Today’s modern buyers are literally trained to be ‘forensic analysts’ of their businesses. Salespeople are no longer welcome, needed or in fact relevant. Buyers know exactly what the challenges are in their organisations; they have already worked out what is the required solution, researched possible suppliers, and decided who are the ‘best’ ones to fulfil that solution!

The price they want to pay has been benchmarked and the service levels expected will have been set. Then, and only then, will a salesperson be involved when their company receives a ‘request for tender’ through their door.

And of course if you cannot do it somebody else undoubtedly will.

The only way sales people can bypass this commodity buying process in 2015 is to become forensic themselves, forgetting initially about the products or services they offer, bypassing the buyers, and completely switching their attention to their clients customers, i.e. their end-users needs.

Doing this, by identifying gaps that could enhance their client’s customers experience, or by finding ways of giving their clients a competitive edge, and all this before the forensic buyers have even noticed their business had a need.

The next crucial step is to weave around normal buying processes and go straight to MDs, FDs and other positive change champions in that business.

As you can imagine this calls for a completely different type of salesperson profile – a ‘Forensic Sales Expert’©.

It may be the ‘Death of a Salesman’, but it’s the birth of a ‘Forensic Sales Expert’

To find out how we have developed a programme to source, profile, select and train a ‘Forensic Sales Expert’© please contact: [email protected]

Philip Peters is managing director of Leading National Training, which works successfully across both the private and public sectors

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