Why Do We Need A New Sales
Approach For A New Type Of Customer?
By Jonathan Farrington
The traditional customer call
once seemed indispensable to the selling process; the time and expense
involved were just a basic cost of doing business. In recent years,
however, the business community has come to regard the sales call as
an expenditure for which there are substitutes.
For many companies telemarketing and direct mail have made the
sales call a choice not an inevitability. This is not surprising when
various studies suggest that getting one sales person in front of one
customer now costs £500 - this cost has trebled since 1983. As a
consequence professional salespeople have to be more effective than
ever to justify the investment in a face to face effort.
essence, we can draw a number of primary
conclusions and taken together, these findings paint a picture of the
current state of the sales environment.
Focus Creates Competitive Advantage:
one term that sets top performers apart - customer focus
sales results depend on:
The ability to think from the
customer’s point of view
Understanding the customer’s agenda,
buying cycle and best interests
a superficial reading of immediate customer needs, salespeople
must gain a deeper understanding of both the buyer’s long-term
goals and the overall business climate
the heart of customer focus is the art of listening constructively
- the best salespeople are masters at capturing information
focus means taking the customer seriously - to-day the salesperson
who clings to the product orientation of a decade ago is losing
client companies branch into new markets and unfamiliar
territories, they are demanding unique, flexible solutions from
their vendors - customized to support specific goals
Another myth which can be
exploded is that whilst customers value flexibility, being too
flexible can undermine the sales relationship. On the whole
salespeople imagine that customers value a vendor’s responsiveness
above all. However recent research shows that their primary concern is
In summary, in order to maintain
customer focus the best salespeople become facilitators, creating a
partnership that extends the selling relationship within the
customer’s company. The motivation to achieve this should be strong
- it costs five times as
much to attract and sell to a new customer as it does to an existing
right to do business has to be earned and never
than doggedly asking for the business, the very best sales people work
to keep the relationship moving towards a sale. They realise the need
to identify how to turn their company’s products into real
solutions, which must meet specific needs.
Unfortunately, our surveys
confirm that the average salesperson drags the customer over old
ground as much as 52% of the time - they are unable to provide
continuous stimulation and never know when to treat an existing
customer like a new one.
salespeople only make such ‘return’ calls for 10% of the time.
Above all, earning the right to proceed requires gaining the
customer’s trust and top salespeople work diligently to establish a
climate in which the customer is willing to share information and
feels comfortable doing so. The key here is integrity.
are persuaded when they are part of the process and not part of the
success to-day demands a radical shift from the ‘peddler’
mentality of merely demonstrating products and expanding on their
features. It requires treating the customer as a participant. More
often than not, a ‘flashy’ sales presentation alone alienates
rather than persuades
The best salespeople regard the
sales call as a two-way conversation - not a one sided pitch. They
have developed active listening skills. Average salespeople score
fairly well in their ability to provide customers with facts and
figures, but top performers dramatically outscore the rest when it
comes to gathering information. In addition, how a salesperson
collects information still distinguishes exceptional achievers from
the rest of the pack. I.e. top performers ask better questions and as
a result gain much better information.
Essentially, they aim to engage customers in the buying process
with questions that require thoughtful answers, that stimulate
curiosity and that reveal the customers underlying needs
Businesses need to re-define selling
and what constitutes basic selling skills:
In to-day’s world of selling,
there is less and less room for apprenticeship. Selling has become an
exclusive club of highly skilled professionals where product knowledge
and time management skills, for instance, are the cost of membership
Ongoing research demonstrates
that to-day’s ‘average’ salesperson is just as effective as the
high performer in explaining features and benefits effectively,
relating a service or product to customer needs and closing a sale.
But, above this Level 1 plateau of competence, the exceptional
salesperson is busy defining the “basic skills of tomorrow”.
Building an up-to-date
foundation in sales competence does mean sacrificing some old notions
of what it takes to succeed in a competitive marketplace. For example,
a salesperson can no longer just “win by knowing”. Every company
needs to test their assumptions about what skills really contribute to
sales success. Too often operating on old sales theories means
training and rewarding people to do the wrong things.
the buyer and seller act as partners, they are building a bridge to
Successful selling is definitely not about the
“hit and run” sale. Sales achievers regard their relationships
with key customers as a partnership and cultivate it as such. When
customers face tough business challenges and complex technological
choice, they rely on sales people who can assist them in making the
The primary objective of a sales
partnership has to be, to create and sustain a mutually productive
relationship, which serves the needs of both parties, now and in the
future. The key word here is symbiotic.
Partnership does not mean eliminating the tension between buyer
and seller; it means that top-performing salespeople know how to
strike a balance between achieving immediate results and developing
the relationship fully.
Summary: Why Do We Need A Fresh Approach To Selling?
Many organisations have
developed without objective analysis of their purpose and structure.
The buying power in many industries is no longer evenly distributed -
in a large number of markets a few big firms control the majority of
The development of new marketing
techniques has meant that some tasks traditionally performed by the
sales team can be more effectively handled by other methods. The prime objective of all sales staff is to gain business. From an
organisational point of view, however, how they all achieve their
goals must be defined in order to identify what kind and the quality
of skills that are required.
The moral right of the author, Jonathan Farrington, has been asserted.
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