The new age salesman

RIP to the salesman of the 20th century

Selling is part of life. It’s in our faces 24/7, whether it’s obvious or subliminal. In fact, we ourselves are also all selling something in one guise or another: Our skills, our information, ourselves as potential employees or employers, as business partners or life partners.

The other side of this coin is that each of us also has a mental picture of the kind of salesman who makes us want to run in the opposite direction. And then there is the one we are drawn to, the one who makes us feel that the whole sale exchange was a pleasure.

Different strokes, different folks

The process of a sale varies depending on a number of factors. The sale of an incidental once-off item like a lamp, for instance, is different from that of a high-value long-term purchase like a car: the latter, particularly, is likely to go better if you feel you’re partnering with a knowledgeable, trusted salesperson who understands your needs and reservations.

The emergence and development of information technology has allowed us to access and research information on just about any subject or product under the sun. Social media like Facebook and LinkedIn allow us to connect and ask friends about information, products and people. There is nothing as powerful as peer recommendation. Often we will go on what our contacts recommend rather than trust a sponsored radio advertisement or a magazine article. Comment boxes on websites likes www.tripadvisor.com or www.hellopeter.com also give us access to reviews by users of products and allow us an informed opinion. These platforms have changed the way in which information is shared and this, in turn, has changed the sales process.

Smart sales people in the 21st century understand all this, including the fact that we now have many ways to buy a product without ever interacting with sales staff face-to-face. So if they’re strategic, they choose to work with lines and products and for a company they know well and believe in. Sales people in the 21 st century spend time building strong relationships with their clients. This is the ingredient X that puts this type of salesperson in a class of their own. It also highlights the stark difference when you experience the hard core “old style” salesperson who makes you want to run away.

Winning ways

Develop the following attributes if you want to be a sales-smart person:

  • Be authentic in who you are and who you represent.
  • Be trustworthy. Do and act on what you promise.
  • Sell benefits not products.
  • Understand your customer by establishing what is important to them.
  • Know your products in detail.
  • Become an industry expert and update yourself on new products and trends.
  • Become a problem solver for your client.
  • Learn to communicate in the style appropriate for your client.
  • Add value by using different mediums and experiences that make your client feel special.
  • Treat each client as an individual so they feel your authenticity.
  • Network and connect virtually, collectively and individually.

Consider these two scenarios:

  • John needs to take out income protection. He searches the Internet, finds many options, makes a quick decision and signs up for a policy in almost the same fashion as he signs up for a social networking site. A year later he is involved in an accident and will not be able to work for up to a year. He takes comfort in the knowledge that he is insured against just such an eventuality. However, when he lodges his claim he discovers he had not understood the fine print and that he is, in fact, not covered as he thought he was.
  • Mary divorced five years ago. She has taken full responsibility for all her financial decisions, and has taken the time to develop a relationship with a financial adviser she trusts who can guide her with many of the long-term decisions she needs to make for herself and her family. This past year, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, her dread disease policy was in place and she was able to settle her bond. This allows her to concentrate on treatment and recovery instead of fretting about her home and security. Her financial adviser also put her in touch with a support group for breast cancer survivors and supports her in her activities to raise awareness around her journey back to recovery.

The so-called “relationship economy” acknowledges that we are interdependent: it’s one-on-one rather than “the power of one”. In all our transactions, we hope for an experience that connects heads, heart and hands. This takes time, understanding, dedication, engagement… it cannot be replicated via the computer. A salesperson who understands this and is able to develop a plan for each client will find their business thriving and growing. Technology is a tool to use, but the human factor can never be replaced. The combination of the “tool” and the “human” is the shift that, if understood, will grow your business and take you and your company to new heights.