"The fact is, everyone is in sales. Whatever area you work in, you do have clients and you do need to sell." - Jay Abraham.
The quote's from Jay Abraham, business marketing consultant extraordinaire and listed in 2000 by Forbes magazine as one of the top five executive coaches in the USA. Clearly, the guy gets it.
I often mention the quote when talking to people about selling. Because it seems that, in general, we all pretty much despise Sales.
When most of us think of people who work in sales we think of pushy, dishonest, commission-focussed reptiles that would sell their grandma for a dollar in a heartbeat – and ask for change. Fake-Rolex-wearing car dealers whose suits are two weeks' overdue for a dry clean. We're thinking of the sharks in Glengarry Glen Ross, or Tin Men. Or maybe the has-beens like Gil Gunderson from The Simpsons.
I'm sure that most of us have run into those kind of salespeople. Which is why we have such an aversion to the term "Sales" today.
But times have changed.
Beware The Fake Gold Rolex - And The Old-School Sales Tactics Oh sure, you can still find the occasional phoney gold Oyster Perpetual now and again. But those guys (and they are all, invariably, guys) are a dying breed. Thankfully.
So why are they dying out? Is it because the human race has evolved past such Neanderthal thinking that such personality types are becoming thin on the ground? Unfortunately not.
Is it because companies can no longer find enough rhino-skinned individuals who don't take "no" for an answer? Hardly.
No, dear reader. The reason why those kinds of salespeople are rapidly becoming extinct is because of you. And because of me. And because of Everyone Else. Let me explain.
Back in the day, the power balance between seller and buyer was heavily weighted in favour of the one doing the hawking. The salesperson held all the trump cards in terms of what was on offer. Its features, its faults, how it compared to the competition, and so on. For buyers to get that sort of information was difficult, time-consuming – and even then probably not as accurate as the information that the seller already knew.
The customer / supplier relationship was one-sided.
Take the process of buying a used car, for example. A few years ago buying a used car was like playing Russian Roulette. You'd have a limited number of cars to choose from – local dealers, the local newspaper, and so on. You were never sure about the car's history, its reliability, or the credentials of the seller. The salesperson would talk about the car's previous "careful elderly lady owner", without mentioning her club-footed myopic rabid homicidal maniac nephew who used to borrow it every weekend.
Today, you can go online and check out pretty much everything. Once you've found your model you can view it online at dealerships or private sellers in your area. You can compare specs, mileage, get insurance quotes and even find out whether the apple of your eye has ever been lost, stolen or involved in an accident.
Sure, there's still the chance that you'll end up with a lemon. But today you've got social media. You can recant your tale of injustice to your Facebook friends. Or you could take a leaf out of this guy's book and pay for a promoted Tweet (a worrying precedent, I have to say).
Like I say, the balance has shifted. Yesterday the salesperson held all the power, effectively 'controlling' the interaction. Today, the buyer has just as much information that's pertinent to the sale as the seller (actually, probably more).
So does that mean that the salesperson's days are numbered? Well, yes and no.
Death Of A Salesman? More Like A Rennaisance When both parties have access to pretty much the same amount of information deemed necessary to make the sale, Neanderthal Salesperson is sunk. Why? Because if we as buyers have all we need to make a decision, why on earth do we need slimy, pushy salespeople? We don't.
However, what we do need instead is a new kind of salesperson.
The kind of salesperson who isn't trying to sell me a product or service, but is looking to solve the underlying problem that has led me to my current buying dilemma. I no longer want someone with all the answers, rattling-off features and benefits like some sports-jacketed macaw. Today I want someone who asks me questions, helping me get to the root of my problem, and uncovering possible alternative solutions to my problem.
Salespeople aren't going away – they're growing-up. They're having to evolve to maintain their relevance in a purchasing situation where they no longer hold the upper hand. Where the ongoing relationship is more important than the sale. Where they actually care about the people that they do business with.