Timeless in Sales
by Cindy Stradling
For many decades sales people were taught to create and deliver persuasive presentations that were often called “pitches.” Sales training programs taught many closing techniques and would repeat the mantra – the ABC’s of selling = Always Be Closing. Those days are gone and effective sales people of the 21st century involve a much more collaborative approach. This approach includes focusing on the customer’s needs versus the old days of using manipulative tactics to close the sale so the sales person could meet their sales targets, regardless if it was a good fit for the customer. I never sold like this, it simply didn’t fit with my personal values.
Like everything else in our society today, sales is evolving and changing. Clients want to work with suppliers who are aligned with their values. They want trusted advisors and organizations who are interested in win-win partnerships.
I have been in sales for 20+ years and I have noticed many differences and yet there are some things that have never changed. People buy from people they trust and like, that has been my reality since my first cold call. People want to know they can count on their salespeople to keep them informed and provide them with the best solutions possible. I am pleasantly persistent when it comes to follow up and staying touch with both clients and prospective clients. I think this is one of the keys to success in the long run. Customers have told me the reason I won their business because I never went away when things got delayed or they were not ready to buy. Often sales people will give up too soon.
Good salespeople will always qualify a prospective client before starting to prospect them as a possible customer. Effective selling involves asking great questions versus the “gift of the gab” approach of the sales people of the past. Another thing that is never changed, in my opinion, is customers expect salespeople to be professional in their approach to business. Although the business attire in some industries is more business casual than in the past, the sales person still needs to be professional. They need to be punctual, respectful, articulate themselves well and listen intently to the needs of their customers.
There are many new and different ways to meet and connect with potential clients today. Social media has opened up many doors that would not have been accessible in the past. A few of the younger salespeople I have spoken with do not use any other method than social media. Seasoned sales people like myself need to incorporate social media as part of our business development strategy. I still do cold calls and prospecting like I have since the beginning and for me it still works. I have also started to work with LinkedIn as part of my business development strategies. I challenged one of my students who didn’t believe in cold calling to give it a try, since she had never done it before. We talked about what she would say and who she would call. She reported back to me that it was easier than she thought and that the few people she did speak to her, didn’t yell at her (like she thought they would) and they were all very professional and one person asked her to call back in a few weeks that she was interested in speaking with her when she got back from her vacation. She now incorporates cold calling as part of her business development strategy.
So what is my point to all this? It is simply to say that some things are timeless in sales no matter what method(s) you use for prospecting and business development.
- Great listening skills
- Collaboration for a win-win
- Authenticity and honesty