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The Lost Art of Selling

Posted 7 years ago

Mastering the art of selling, like any art, requires the blend of natural ability and technique. However, natural ability will only take a sales professional so far. It’s best practices and learned technique that separate successful sales professionals from the less successful ones. International speaker and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Rick Barrera believes the art of selling has been largely lost. In this week’s story on Platinum Rules for Success, Rick addresses this issue, by sharing recommendations for sales managers who want to recapture the lost art of selling and improve their team’s performance.

The Lost Art of Selling

by Rick Barrera

Why we need selling skills more than ever Real face-to-face selling skills are going the way of the dodo bird and no one seems to care…BUT Social Media can’t do the entire job of winning customers. How did this happen? Two major shifts drove this change. In the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, virtually every company had a sales force that was steeped in product knowledge, application knowledge and selling skills. The sales team was the revenue generation engine. Suddenly, sales teams were deemed too expensive to maintain, and the responsibility for driving revenues shifted to the marketing department. The theory was that if we could create demand for our products and services through advertising and promotion, we merely needed to harvest the flood of incoming orders in our call centers or order desks. The second major shift was from traditional marketing to online marketing and social media, providing real time global reach for our marketing messages. It seemed like a panacea. But, what happens if the phone doesn’t ring or the online orders slow? Both of these shifts created breakthroughs in the ability to reach greater numbers of potential customers and the ability to “tell our story” in greater depth and breadth. But these vehicles also have shortcomings. First, they are often “one-way” vehicles, allowing the customer to learn a lot about us but enabling us to learn very little about our potential customers. This requires customers to become applications specialists, determining on their own how best to use our products and services. The second problem is that these marketing methods virtually eliminate the ability to grab attention for a product or service they may not be seeking and to collaborate with our potential customers to create and deliver new and unique solutions for them. This is a critical problem in a crowded marketplace where everyone is seeking their attention and they are overwhelmed with marketing communications. Too often, customers become immune to the wiles of marketing and promotion. Search engine optimization is useless if potential customers aren’t searching. Why We Need Trust More Than Ever What we have lost is the very human connection that engenders trust between a company and its customers. Trust is the basis for all business transactions. We have recently seen firsthand, what a lack of trust in the banking system has done to the global economy. As customers tune out marketing and promotions, we need a human connection to tune them back into the critical decisions they should be making to ensure that they are profitable and healthy for the long‐term, and that is where a great sales force comes in. A great sales person can help customers gain a clearer understanding of their long‐term goals and priorities and can collaborate in ways that no website or help desk ever could, to help customers move forward in the face of ambiguity, adversity and fear. A Lost Art? America has always produced the best salesmen in the world from Zig Ziglar to Jack Welch to Steve Jobs, but where is the next generation of super sales people? Many of the executives who are leading our largest corporations began their careers in sales. Many of them mistakenly believe that their people possess the same skills they possess. It is simply not true. At its zenith, Xerox put new hires through months of sales training before they ever called on a customer. In the computer, insurance, real estate, chemical, automobile, software, furniture, appliance, security and many other industries, superb sales skills were critical for career success. Yet, the sales training curriculums that built these companies (and in some cases the companies themselves) have virtually disappeared. Revenue on Demand If we don’t adequately train the next generation of sales professionals, these skills and the first-hand experience of the best generation of sales trainers ever, will be lost to the American business community. And just to be clear, I am not talking about teaching trickery or 101 ways to close the sale. I am talking about the ability to ask the right questions at the right time in the right way to create a sale where none would have existed without that conversation. I am talking about the ability to consistently deliver significant revenue increases quarter after quarter in any business climate, in other words, to generate revenue on demand. Companies need that skill set right now, more than ever. Can you name a single company or industry that would not benefit from better sales skills right now? How about yours? Start recruiting immediately. If you don’t have a proactive inside or outside sales team, now is the very best time to create one. Be sure to talk with past customers, sales managers and peers before believing everything on the resume. Have prospective sales candidates call you on the phone for an appointment to sell whatever they are selling now and then schedule a sales call with them to see their sales interviewing, presentation and collaboration skills in action. If they can’t sell you, they won’t sell your customers either. A strong sales person should be getting tangible results (new accounts, actively‐engaged prospects or significant sales increases in existing accounts) within 60‐90 days. Hold weekly sales meetings. If you aren’t having weekly sales meetings, start this week. Monday morning or Friday afternoon mandatory sales meetings are critical in challenging markets. The team needs to share success stories and best practices, be honest about what is not working, coordinate with marketing for better alignment, and brainstorm new ideas for getting clients unstuck. Most importantly, they need get regular practice and coaching on their sales skills. And don’t forget to tell them how valuable they are to the organization. Sales people get a lot of negative feedback from prospects and clients. They need as much positive input as you can provide. They also need to know that you believe in them and value them enough to spend your time coaching and training them. Invest in your team. Bring in a professional sales trainer to work with your team on a consistent schedule. High quality sales trainers can quickly spot shortcomings and create breakthroughs for your team. They will also provide the double espresso shot of new sales skills and motivation. One without the other is useless. Sales training done right delivers a very high return on investment. One new account or one breakthrough in methodology can often pay for a year’s worth of training. Use the same trainer consistently. It is common practice to rotate sales trainers “so the sales team doesn’t get bored and to expose them to a variety of ideas” In fact, rotating trainers confuses your team since each trainer has their own approach, methodology, philosophy, skill set and language. Sales people hate “the program of the month.” Sales training is NOT about entertainment. It is about skills transfer. Consistency pays because your team will learn a comprehensive set of skills and their confidence will grow as they learn. Your sales trainer will also learn more about your products, services and customers over time and that will translate into better training. Control your own destiny or someone else will. You set the cadence for your team. You are responsible for revenue growth. Control your destiny by adding extraordinary sales skills to your revenue generation arsenal. Revenue is at the top of your P&L because it is the most critical measure of your long‐term viability and success. Revenue is where you must focus to win and professional sales skills are critical for driving revenue.

art of sellingRick Barrera is the co‐author of Collaborative Selling and Non‐Manipulative Selling. He has more than 25-years of experience creating deeply customized sales training programs for the Fortune 500 and smaller firms. To learn more or contact Rick, please visit www.overpromise.com