How Power Base® Sellers have adapted to a changed sales eco system

Having been in the sales business for a long, long time, having trained literally thousands of salespeople, having sold and trained around the world, I am often asked "Has selling changed over the years?".  
Well, if you were to read one of the most famous sales books ever, Dale Carnegie's, "How to Win Friends and Influence People", and you read the first few paragraphs without reading the preface, you'd think, "Hmm... this is quite relevant today." Then, when you do read the preface, you'd see that this book was first published in 1936.

So - has selling changed?  Fundamentally no, its been fine tuned, the techniques have been renamed a few times and some have been dropped.  What has changed is buying.

It used to be that the seller controlled the selling and the buyer controlled the buying.  Then, along came the Internet, the information age and social media.  Selling was turned on its head because now, a much better informed, much better educated prospect can control the buying process and selling process, too.

Let's take a look back.

Up until the early 2000's, a professional, solution salesperson (in simplified terms) identified prospects, motivated them to engage, built rapport, skillfully asked questions, identified needs, presented solutions, handled objections and closed the deal.  Buyers were not particularly savvy about what they were buying.  They wanted information and they wanted choice.  They wanted to buy from someone whom they could trust.  
Solution selling, B2B selling, was about personal relationships - prospects were buying trust first and product / services second.  Sales people were "information providers" practicing "personal selling", gaining trust to make decisions easier for the prospect.

Very early into the new millennium there was a paradigm shift.   
There was increased competition in just about every product, service and market sector you can name (B2B and B2C). There was more choice than ever.  The Internet and increased competition drove prices down (and margins!).  More sophisticated solutions had more impact (negative and positive) across entire organizations.  Now, with more information more readily available, multiple decision makers were becoming more involved in more decisions. Enterprise selling was the order of the day and "the Internet changes everything" rang only too true.

Many salespeople, hitherto successful salespeople who had been using traditional 'tried and trusted' solution-selling skills, found themselves struggling in this new enterprise environment.

Then, in the late 2000's the market place was turned upside down.  
Globally, there was a low growth environment.  There was considerable cost scrutiny applied to just about any purchase for anything.  Organizations were barely buying necessities, let alone niceties.   Simultaneously, social media started gathering real momentum, putting information and tools at the fingertips of buyers.
This meant that buyers did not need to engage with salespeople to get information.  They did not need to build a simple, trusting relationship with a salesperson to make a wise decision.  They merely jumped online and asked their peers what they thought.  When they finally called in the salesperson, the decision was nearly made. The buyer - seller engagement was for the purpose of, literally or figuratively placing the order.

For more complex purchases the customer still wanted a relationship with the salesperson but not simply one where they trusted the salesperson for good information.  They wanted advice and input from the relationship; they wanted a problem solver.  They wanted the salesperson to challenge and contribute, not simply present solutions and offer choices.  The salespeople who emerged and had enjoyed success during the recession and into the second decade of the millennium were professionals who had gained insider status and built symbiotic relationships (the customer and the salesperson can't live without each other).  They were the professionals who created demand for what they sold; they didn't simply service demand.

These professionals, whom we call "Power Base Sellers", not only delivered value but they delivered unexpected value - value that the customer did not realize was attainable.  
They created and executed strategies that ethically, quickly and professionally differentiated their solutions from their competitors' in ways that benefited the customer, enabling those customers to make faster, more beneficial decisions. Basically,  the Power Base salespeople let the competition defeat themselves.   In so doing, these salespeople did not just build relationships, they delivered personal value to their contacts (the decision makers and the decision influencers) that gave those contacts a (positive) political advantage, often advancing personal agendas and careers.

So, has selling changed?  For many people it has not but buying has changed considerably. So, sales folks who have not changed with the times are getting left behind.  How you sell has to change. Your competitive advantage has to come from how you sell, not what you sell.

OK but in plain language, has selling changed?  Yes, it has. Buyers want an advisor who will solve problems, not an information provider who can offer options.   In short, they want 'Power Base Salespeople'.
In my next blog, I will talk more about Power Base Selling and how you can develop your sales technique in this direction.


Tagged as Challenger sale, Power Base Selling, relationship selling, solution selling.

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