Much has been written about the changing nature of buyers and the buying process. We’ve written quite a bit here about the need for salespeople and selling organizations to change their approach.
Nowhere near that level of attention has been paid to the changing nature of the salesperson in today’s world. While many like to claim the rise of digital marketing will eliminate the need for most salespeople, the reality is that effective salespeople are as important (or more so) than ever before.
What has changed is that the bar for effectiveness has risen, the consequences for ineffectiveness have increased and the nature of how a salesperson needs to think has greatly evolved.
For decades the model salesperson exhibited characteristics like:
- Highly confident (or at least pretended to be)
- Highly charismatic
- Lone wolf
Brian Halligan, co-Founder & CEO of HubSpot, has been talking for years about the anatomy of the modern salesperson. He even came up with the totally Bostonian acronym of SMAHT to describe the attributes of an effective salesperson – Smart, Motivated, Ambiverted, Helpful and Transparent.
A couple of years ago, I shared five attributes that were critical for a salesperson to be successful. Recently several of our clients have been talking with us about hiring new salespeople, so we’ve been spending quite a bit of time talking about what they should be looking for in the recruiting and selection process.
I’ve found myself talking a lot about the mindset of the successful salesperson in today’s world. I find that while sales training, coaching and skills development are still important, the mindset of the individual is going to contribute more to the success (or failure) of the effort than anything else. In the course of my conversations with clients, I’ve shared four mindsets that are key to success.
My Prospects Don’t Need Me
Early in my career I had a sales coach who gave me a great insight. He said to me, “Doug, everybody wakes up in the morning with the same goal.” I asked him what the goal was, and he responded, “They don’t want to meet you.”
While it is certainly true that no one wakes up and excitedly thinks, “Hey, I think I’m going to go out and meet some new salespeople today;” back when I first got into sales, they had no choice if they wanted to solve their problems. The only way buyers learned about what was happening outside their organizations, what solutions existed and the details surrounding those solutions, was to engage with a salesperson.
Recently, I was reviewing some marketing technology options for a client. The company didn’t have pricing information on their website, and wouldn’t share anything about pricing until I went through their process. It was like a flashback to the 1980s where salespeople controlled and manipulated the process, frustrating their prospects.
So I simply went on Google entered the name of the product and “pricing.” Within seconds I had all of the information I needed, and all the company had succeeded in doing was to frustrate me and create an adversarial position.
Today’s salesperson knows, accepts and even embraces this. They realize that prospects don’t need salespeople today. We can argue about how much of the buyer’s journey a prospect conducts on their own, but what we can’t argue about is that they do just about as much as they want to.
Because of this, today’s successful salesperson realizes that it is their (the salesperson’s) job to create value in all aspects of their interactions with their prospects and customers. This changes how everything from the questions they ask to the way they research and even to the emails they send.
I’m a Businessperson First, A Salesperson Second
In my sales workshops I regularly advise executives to “fire all of their salespeople;” and replace them with businesspeople who sell. Today’s salesperson possesses business acumen even more than they possess sales skills.
Engaging with prospects on business issues and impact is the key to standing out and demonstrating a clear value proposition. The successful salesperson understands that the traditional features/benefits approach will only commoditize the seller. They know they need to know more about the business issues than their prospect and they know that they have to drive the conversation deeper to succeed.
Saying “No” Is The Fastest Path to “Yes”
One of the blog titles I saw that I loved the most was: How Not to Suck at Poker: Play Fewer Hands. I loved the title for two reasons. First, I simply thought it was humorous, and second I thought it was totally accurate.
What is true for poker players is true for salespeople. If you want to not suck at selling, pursue fewer opportunities. The author of the aforementioned post notes that there are only five premium hands. A successful poker player is extraordinarily clear and disciplined about the hands they will play and the ones they won’t.
Today’s buying process is more complicated and comprehensive than ever before. For most B2B sales organizations, a sales process represents a pretty significant investment of time, energy and money. Top salespeople know that to consistently win business they must have the time to invest in the right opportunities. The key to having that time is being confident is saying “no” to the wrong opportunities.
Today’s salesperson understands that the strength of their pipeline is far more valuable that the volume of it.
It Takes A Team to Make The Sale
The days of the lone wolf sales rep are over. Even the ones that can put up numbers do so in a way that is disruptive and non-replicable, thus making it more difficult to scale growth.
Today’s salesperson knows that the sales process is a core part of a comprehensive demand generation process. They understand that prospects learn, consume and engage in different manners than they did in the past.
Therefore, they embrace a team-based approach and not only acknowledge, but demand the active role of marketing in the lead generation and sales process. They also contribute to marketing’s job of creating relevant content and sharing the experiences so that marketing has the insights they need to drive demand.
As you build your training, coaching and management plans be sure that you’re focusing on mindset, and watch your growth soar.