Web 2.0 and Sales 2.0 have raised the consciousness of sellers about what is and could be available to help them sell more. I’ve got a big concern about this trend, though. A big concern. It’s the increasing glut of web-based sales tips and tricks, and the degree to which sales people and their managers are drawn to them as quick fixes to their selling problems. Sales 2.0 is not web-based sales tips on steroids.
How many sales people do you think regularly seek out tips about selling on websites, in magazines, in books, in newsletters, and on video on YouTube? ESR has not researched this (if someone has, let me know), but I would expect the answer is: a lot.
What’s wrong with it? Same answer: a lot.
Here’s why. Many salespeople think that these tips (almost all of them are tactics) are all they need to win. Really they do. Read enough articles and books, grabbing enough of these tips, they think, and they’ll never lose another deal.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that many of the hundreds of sales experts out there have something valuable to say. (I certainly felt that way when I wrote How Winners Sell, as well as a hundred or so articles.) That’s not the issue.
My problem is this: Because many sales leaders don’t take a strategic approach to selling, which must include building a methodology, learning & training, coaching, post-program reinforcement, and ongoing measurement, those leaders leave their sales reps to fend for themselves. A sales manager can now take a shortcut and pay to have his team get online access to written tips, audio clips and videos from more than 100 experts on pretty much any subject having to do with selling.
As a result, salespeople collect whichever of these tips they think might work. If they try a tip once, and it doesn’t work, they’ll likely reject it—without ever giving themselves an opportunity to perfect that skill or technique. Or, if something is out of their grasp in terms of understanding, or the investment of time involved is more than they are willing to make, they don’t pursue that approach either. However misguided this behavior might be, unfortunately it’s quite normal.
Only because I have such regard for Tony Parinello did I allow our researchers to use his million-seller book Selling to VITO in our “Range of Sales Performance Solutions and Programs” graphic from ESR’s Sales Training Vendor Guide. Look at the chart above. If the only sources of learning for a rep are self-paced (a characteristic of a Sales 2.0 environment) and tactical in intent, they are likely not going to see the whole picture and, as a result, ever hope to become more strategic in their sales approach. Tony definitely positions himself as a tactician. He and I have talked about that on a number of occasions. Sales reps NEED tactics. Tactics are required to win. But just tactics alone won’t get them where they need to be.
How do I know I’m right on this issue? Sales tips books and articles have been around for a generation, right? So how come researchers (CSO Insights and Sales Benchmark Index, among others) agree that 40% (or so) of B2B sales people don’t make quota? And, the companies that have a formal, institutionalized sales methodology consistently sell more effectively than those that don’t. These are the facts.
So, if your salespeople swear by those valuable tricks and tips from the great sales experts, do your reps, your company, your customers and yourself a favor. Research which ones are appropriate and relevent for your unique selling situation. Integrate only the best of those into your documented sales process along with, among other critical components, a comprehensive assessment of your customer’s situation, a SMART sales objective, and appropriate strategies. I’ve seen companies do this very successfully with Tony’s VITO approach in the lead gen area.
There are no shortcuts to sales effectiveness. Standalone sales tips don’t work. They lull the manager and the sales rep into a false sense of hope. Just one more website… Just one more book… I’ll find the answer… I’ll find that silver bullet…