This week I was casually listening to a “seasoned” sales executive reminisce about the “good old days”… when he knew he was top dog because he was receiving a sales order order by this new courier called Federal Express. Then I went home and as I was sitting in my basement home office, I gazed at a bookshelf containing over one hundred plus sales & business-related books I’d bought, read, or acquired in the last 12 years and then it hit me: (besides spending too much money) much of what I’ve read and the counsel proposed in many of these may be obsolete today. The game has changed and many of the best old players… couldn’t compete and win in today’s hyper-competitive technology sales arenas.
What Happened? Nothing really. Ever since mankind stood on two legs, somebody has been selling and not many people esteemed those in the profession. In fact, I’d describe society’s perspective regarding sales people as being one of strained tolerance. That was yesterday. Today’s prospective buyers don’t have to take it anymore. They can do a Google or Wikipedia search and at the click of a mouse secure information that used be only available via a sales rep; they’ll research their options and get referrals about how you’ve treated your customers by reading their blog posts; they’ll communicate with like-minded buyers via twitter, and before they’ve even meet a salesperson face-to-face, it’s likely they’ll read the salespersons LinkedIn profile to validate their professionalism and character thru common connections. The net: Potential customers have more leverage and there’s more transparency in the buyer-seller relationship in a game that’s been evolving for years.
Why? Frankly, potential buyers have been frustrated or angry for years and they should be! For them, today’s revenge is sweet as the tables have turned on those who for decades have advocated “anything goes” to do business. Billions of dollars have been spent teaching sales people how to close deals and build careers vs. solving real business problems, and many traditional sales tactics and strategies are adversarial or manipulative processes (and everybody knows it.) This old reality resulted in the implementation of buyers deploying defensive, dysfunctional buying processes that have made it extremely difficult for those sales professionals who are operating on a platform of integrity and presenting excellent products to be successful. In fact, I don’t know a single sales professional who during sometime in their career, hasn’t exercised their training only to reach the crossroads of a moral decision to either knowingly do the wrong deal because of their management’s quota pressure, or walk away from it with their integrity intact and a termination notice in-hand.
The Old-New Reality: We all know that there always have been, and always will be deal-whores and hustlers without a moral compass. But today’s access to information and the exercise of social media for business empowers and informs potential buyers as never before to quickly ascertain who is authentic and whats hype. The winners? Sales and marketing organizations leveraging the latest tools who have established a corporate culture of selling with integrity for the purpose of developing mutually beneficial collaborative business relationships with their customers. The result: good sales professionals will actually be able to afford to do the morally right thing. It’s about time.