Traditional selling techniques are no longer effective in the twenty-first century. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review revealed that only 1 in 250 salespeople actually creates positive economic impact for their companies, and less than 37% of salespeople meet a profile deemed to be “effective.” It is time to end the traditional approach to sales, where most salespeople are considered pests or peddlers and transform that approach so that salespeople are perceived as the valuable assets they can be.
Through 20 years of research, I have learned that the problem is a systems problem, not a people problem. To drive profitable growth, companies must adopt new systems, develop new skills and apply new disciplines to be effective. The good news is that companies that make this transformation gain disproportionate rewards – often 5 to 10 times average rates of return.
The fundamental problem with traditional selling is that it structurally places the focus on the commodity value. If your goal is differentiation and earning margin premiums, then you must work against traditional selling tactics. For six years, the focus of this blog has been to support the development of a better approach to selling. Consider this post a 30,000 foot review of six years of content (with the links to previous posts to support it).
Here's the problem with traditional selling:
- It is solution-focused. When you begin with the focus on the solution, you are focused on the commodity portion of your proposition. As I've written before: solutions are worthless - until there is a problem.
- It views your difference as a "value-add," rather than as core to your proposition (think IBM pre-1995).
- The playing field is defined by your competition, and the focus is "winning the business." This make the process far more adversarial than it should be. From a customer perspective it makes it a hodgepodge of "sameness."
- Because it's solution-based, the go-to-market focus is broad; too broad. The approach is based upon "who can use the solution," rather than on where the selling organization can be best.
- The sales and marketing approach are silo'd within the selling organization - leading to misalignment, confusion and brand degradation.
A new, far more effective model of selling flips these issues on their head. The focus is on creating value throughout the entire sales/marketing process. Rather than merely fulfilling demand (which is akin to being a pigeon trying to compete for a piece of bread) the focus is on creating demand - what I call Demand Creation Selling.
- It focuses on critical results - and the barriers that prevent those results - rather than on solutions. It focuses on the problem, and enabling the customers/prospects to better understand their problems and the causes and consequences of those problems.
- Rather than viewing your difference as the "value-add," it focuses on your difference, your business' intelligence if you will, as the core of your offering. I refer to it as making The Shift from selling stuff to selling your ability to create results.
- The focus is on creating demand (and markets), and as such, you eliminate competition and you own markets, rather than compete.
- You focus and allocate your resources where you can be the best, and you ignore areas where you're a "me-too" company.
- Instead of focusing on the solution, Demand Creation Selling means that you manically focus on understanding customers - better than the customers understand themselves.
- Expertise is defined by how well, and how deeply, you understand your customers and their issues, rather than how well you know and understand your solution.
Growth is tough enough as it is. Businesses can no longer rely on systems and approaches that work against them. The time has come to change the way you sell - and the rewards await.