I’ve never been the person who accepted the status quo. Not at work, not at home. Change is a natural part of the flow of life. I believe that change leads us forward and is something to embrace rather than fight. Go ahead, huff and puff, kick and scream, resist, resist, resist…like it or not, nothing in life or business EVER remains the same.
I have enough sales and business experience under my belt to comfortably say that these are times of extreme disruption. Nothing about selling in today’s wired world – or the future of what business is becoming – looks anything like what we have seen in the past. Rapid advances in social, mobile, cloud and digital technologies keep changing up the playbook.
This new reality scares the daylights out of many so-called sales experts who stubbornly cling to the past as the world collapses around them. These folks believe “knocking on doors”, “pounding the pavement”, “pressing the flesh” and “smiling and dialing” still work. They don’t. This same camp of experts argues that social media – and technology in general – has no place in the sales process. They insist that the growing trends related to buyer behavior, lead generation, inbound marketing and inside sales either is not happening, will not happen or not happen any time soon. Guess what – already happening. They claim that their way, their data, their approach; their vantage point makes their opinion the right one.
My data is better than your data.
Another pointless – mine is bigger than yours - ego debate rages in the blogosphere started by a few of the “good ole boys” who clearly feel that their turf in the sales profession is being threatened. While screaming at the top of their lungs that social media and cloud computing is a waste of time, they are simultaneously bragging about their LinkedIn and Twitter followers (of which they don’t actually have many), using social channels – like blogs – to argue their case, attack the viewpoints of others and beat their chests like the outdated cavemen that they are. Pardon me, if social doesn’t work, why are YOU using it? And if you have to write an entire blog post to justify the ridiculous logic of an earlier blog post and then use 300 of those words to brag about how amazing you are, I have to wonder why you are so defensive. Shakespeare said it best when he wrote, “Me thinks thou dost protest too much.”
Sales performance and revenue continues to decline or merely remain stagnant. This has been a disappointing trend for some years now. On that point, maybe we can agree. There are numerous reasons why performance issues linger. Ignoring that technology is part of today’s selling equation is certainly one of them, and though I cannot name every other reason why sellers, as a whole have challenges, here are 9 reasons that come to mind for me:
- Sales people are not receiving decent training. That includes how to sell, how to think creatively, how to present, how to use social smartly or how to “walk in the shoes” of their prospect.
- A lack of consultative, communication and listening skills among sellers.
- Focus on short-term revenue goals – better said, selfishly motivated goals focused on what can I get rather than give – at the expense of longer term gains; i.e. customer experience, loyalty and retention.
- A constant search for a quick fix to bigger problems.
- Too much administrative burden placed on sellers and too many internal meetings.
- Measuring raw activity instead of measuring the type and quality of the activity.
- Sales process – if there is one – is not followed consistently.
- Stuck in the past refusing to accept that buyer behavior and expectations have changed.
- Laziness. Newsflash…sending hundreds of boilerplate emails to people not even qualified to buy from you is not actual selling.
Lest anyone misconstrue my words, let me be perfectly clear. Tools are tools…period. You’ll get no argument from me there. And, I don’t know anyone who has more than five minutes of actual experience and credibility in implementing successful social selling strategies who made the promise that using social media would cure the pervasive problems – many of them people, process and behavior related – that plague sales teams.
Technology has a place in selling even if right now sellers are stumbling around trying to figure it all out. It has a place even if your “expert data” doesn’t match modern day reality. You may not like it or care to acknowledge it, but technology and social networks do play a role in the buyer’s journey. Sick of sales people who show up and throw up, decision makers (and their team members) do their own initial, independent research to determine if they want to engage in a sales conversation with a seller at all. If, as the seller, you are fortunate enough to land the meeting, heaven forbid you show up at that meeting completely unprepared and winging it. These same buyers will unceremoniously show you the door.
Contrary to what you believe, dear expert, I am not threatened in the least that your viewpoint is different than mine. I wonder why you feel the need to hide behind your data even when there is ample – and quite reputable data – that contradicts your point of view. Ah well, you and the other boys can keep your heads buried in the sand while bolstering each other’s egos. In my eyes, you are simply dinosaurs, and we all know what happened to them.