Product Selling Is Dead

I’m guessing you clicked this link because you are a salesperson.  You are curious about my statement that product selling is dead.  Don’t let the way you are performing against your quota influence whether you agree or disagree.  Take a minute and think about the reason you became a salesperson in the first place.  It might surprise you.

It’s a fact that most folks get into sales for the following reasons:

  • Money/Commission
  • Freedom/Flexibility (Illusion)
  • Variety
  • Career Growth/Management

If you nod your head to the above…you are in sales for yourself.  This in itself is entirely acceptable and expected.  Just about every company with something to sell, and every recruiter trying to fill a sales position banks on it.

Dig deeper.  Think about the most consistently successful sales reps you know.  I’m not talking about the reps who had a great year ONCE…I’m talking about the folks who consistently deliver year in and year out – regardless of the economy or product portfolio.  What is different about them?  Simple…They don’t sell product.

Truly successful sales professionals don’t sell products…they find problems that their customers are dealing with and they help them solve those problems.  Their customers buy solutions to their problems.  There is no selling.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that customers buy from people they like.  Baloney.  I like a lot of people, but I don’t buy everything they offer.  The right thinking is…customers buy solutions they need to solve problems they have.  So, if you want to be really good at sales, your better be really good at FINDING problems.

Try this exercise:

  •  Make a list of the top 5 challenges impacting the companies in the industry you sell in.
  •  Map that list against your accounts – do they have those same challenges?
  •  Map those challenges against your portfolio of offerings – do they help solve those challenges?

If you have a lot of question marks – you have some homework to do.  If after you have done enough homework and you still can’t answer those questions…your product set doesn’t fit your industry, or customer set.  Time to find a better fit.

But chances are, you find your answers map very well…so what might be holding you back? Maybe it’s time to SHift your approach.  It’s not enough to be focused on solving problems (solution selling)…you need to be great at finding problems.  It takes a little shift in mindset to be interested enough in your customers business to help them recognize problems they may not even realize they have.  Or better yet…help them better understand the options that they have already identified about problems they think they have, which may not even be the real problem.

The reason selling is dead is because of easy access to information.  Sales cycles have changed dramatically over the last 20 years.  Buyers are much more independent and do their own research.  Sales people USED to be the only conduit of information.  Today – search engines handle that load.  

Is the role of the Sales Person dead?  Far from it.  You just need to stop being a megaphone and screaming features and benefits.  Spend more time researching and learning about the industry…become aware of the challenges and problems that are being faced and use that knowledge to look for problems within your customer base.  Find a problem…find an opportunity.

The perception of you as a sales person changes once you start asking questions and listening to the customer as they respond.  Take the pressure off of your pitch – stop trying to drive a sale, and start trying to find a problem to help the customer solve.  You do that, the customer will buy…and quite likely from you.

How do you find problems?  You need ask questions and do your own research in these three categories:

  1. Company History/Department History/Personal History in that role
  2. Current Situation/Current Process
  3. Future State/Goals/Plans

Do not go into your customers office with the idea that you need to sell them something.  Eliminate that pressure and ask them to talk to you about their business, their company and their industry.  Listen.  Take notes and highlight the problems that start popping up.  Do this over a period of consistent interaction (Phone calls, meetings, meals, shared LinkedIn articles, Twitter posts, Events).  Problem finding takes time and effort, but the word to focus on is consistency.

You will be successful.

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