Well, I have not really wanted to admit this for a long time but the act of ‘selling’ something or being in sales is a not only a bad word but a dying ‘art’. I use the term loosely because the art of selling has always been based on some form of manipulation. Manipulation is not art. It’s deceptive and unproductive.
What has brought me to this conclusion? It’s pretty simple. I observe and I take in how things interact. For years, I have ‘sold’ many different things in the technology arena including hard products and services. This is not something I say lightly since I have roughly 20 years experience in sales environments of all stripes. From aggressive to consultative, from cold calling to lead follow up, from good to bad and all stops in between.
I have worked for some really strong people and other really weak ones. I have, until the past three years, chosen to simply sell because of the supposed freedom and more. There is plenty of truth in that with an equal amount of myth. As with most industries it’s fun to hear the victorious success stories, which are common bait for every prospective salesperson. What you don’t hear about is the sudden and radical change in comp plans as well as the political back-biting etc that often dictates the success or failure of a salesperson’s efforts. In fact, it is these unseen pressures that have created an environment where sales, as an art, lost its way and became manipulative and has devolved into its current state.
So what’s next? Fortunately there is a tremendous amount of opportunity to generate revenue (never use the term sell again, please) in the future without having to sell. What you say? That is sacrilege! If you are truly an old-school sales person I suspect it is sacrilege but I am more than OK with that.
You see, we live in the age of social media. No longer is the “prospect” an unsuspecting, uneducated target who needs convincing that your offering is the ‘best of breed’. Those days are long gone in most industries. Now, if you are in sales you are really in business development. If you are good that is and you truly care about people and have a good solution for them. The club tie and the firm handshake are no longer instant credibility gainers. No, in fact this kind of approach has produced the image of the slimy sales guy who is always on the prowl and never really cares about anything other than the ‘close’. That’s sad.
Today is different though and thankfully a lot better. Business development is truly an art that, when done properly, will result in a sale but without someone getting sold in most cases. How? It’s because business development is the antithesis of the sale. For instance
1. Relationships in sales are defined as a contact and the number of ‘interactions’ you had on the way to the close.
Relationships in business development lead to a purchase that is based on understanding, education and trust in the product / service / company as well as the business development professional.
2. Information in sales include sales ‘slicks’ which outline features of a product or service
Information in business development is the ability to see the product from all angles as well as access to information regarding real world applications. Blogs and interactive social media reviews have replaced referrals and traditional marketing materials. Now, buyers have the power to acquire more information pre-purchase than ever before so it is the business development professional’s job to ensure that they get everything they need. Rather than asking leading questions they ask if there are any questions or needs.
3. Customer acquisition in sales is the close. It’s transactional.
Customer acquisition in business development is the establishment of a long term client due to trust and the ability for the customer to make a decision based more on their comfort level than your ability to sell them.
There’s more to this but I suspect that you get my drift. So for me it looks like I am out of selling and into developing. It’s more fun this way.