I care a lot about sales technology, and what it can do for sales teams. But for one day, I am going to stop talking about it. Why? Because for a large number of sales teams, technology is completely irrelevant.
Why sales technology is irrelevant (for many companies)
There are now hundreds, if not thousands, of sales technology solutions on the market. From CRMs to training platforms to call recording apps, name an aspect of sales, and there’s a technology (or twenty) for it.
We’re practically drowning in technology, yet sales effectiveness hasn’t improved over the past ten years. This is crazy. Yet, the reason is actually quite simple.
The sales technologies haven’t helped us, because we haven’t gotten any better at the job of sales.
What I mean by that is, the vast majority of sales teams are still using old fashioned sales techniques that have been proven to be ineffective. And they are making the same mistakes, over and over again. When the sales techniques are wrong, all the technology will do is amplify the wrongness.
Here are some of the wrong things salespeople are still doing
It’s been decades since effective sales approaches like solution selling came to be understood, yet many sales teams are still engaging in ages-old snake oil techniques that simply don’t work. Here are a few:
- Feature pitching. Imagine a slickly dressed sales guy leaning up against a cherry red sports car, pointing out its flawless finish, sporty shape, white walled tires, and leather seats, while the buyer waits to explain that they need a practical, affordable, sensible family car. That’s what salespeople look like when they get on a sales call and start listing the features of the product or solution without listening to the customer first. It’s terrible salesmanship, yet we’re still doing it!
- Gimmick pushing. Anybody old enough to remember door to door sales? Not that long ago, on any given Saturday morning, you might find someone standing at your door with a beaming smile and an offer of a “free” carpet cleaning. Once in your door, these salespeople would attempt to wow you with demonstrations showing off how terrible your existing vacuum cleaner is and why you need to spend several hundred dollars on theirs. These gimmicky approaches might have sold a few vacuum cleaners back in the day, but customers in complex B2B sales are savvy to gimmicks. Yet salespeople still rely on them when they send emails and conduct cold calls claiming “limited time offers” or making wild promises that they can’t live up to. All these tactics do is annoy people, and poison the water for future sale opportunities.
- Shotgunning. If you’ve been in the sales industry long, you might once have been responsible for making cold calls out of the yellow pages or, worse, the white pages. Once upon a time, the Internet didn’t exist, and salespeople had to resort to screening people via cold phone calls based on almost no information. Today, it’s possible to know more about a prospect before you call them than perhaps they know about themselves. Or at least more about their company than they do. So why are salespeople still virtually putting their finger down in the middle of a page and calling whatever number shows up? Perhaps because they think that as long as they make the right number of calls, they’re doing their job, even if it’s not very effective.
This list is certainly not exhausting. In fact, you can probably name another dozen old-fashioned mistakes you’ve seen salespeople make just in the past week. And please do–I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
So what should we be doing instead?
Technology isn’t going to help anyone as long as salespeople continue to make really basic mistakes and pursue old-fashioned techniques that simply don’t work. So instead of focusing on technology, the first thing sales organizations need to do is develop strategies that are effective for their market, and then get their salespeople on board.
The core approach that works in most cases is some version of a value-based sale. This can take many forms, and there are many methodologies that can help get your team on the same page with your approach. But here are the basic elements of a standard value-based selling approach:
- Focus on the customer. Instead of jumping straight into talking about the product, start with the customer. Learn about them, their market, their history and ambitions before you speak to them. Then ask intelligent business-focused questions. Look for pain and ambitions for the future. Find out what drives them and what their genuine business needs are.
- Ask questions to uncover needs and goals. Understand how your product or solution can help them get away from a painful situation and achieve a better future. Make sure to uncover who needs to be involved in the decision. Questioning techniques are critical to effective sales. Read SPIN selling, it’s certainly still relevant!
- Co-create solutions. Instead of trying to cram buyers into one big box, effective salespeople invite the buyer into the process of co-creating a solution that fits their needs and aligns with their goals and aspirations.
- Engage in value conversations. Instead of relying on gimmicks, teach your salespeople to quantify the business benefits for the buyer. Give your people skills and tools to have value-based conversations that connect with what the buyers really need and want. The language of business is numbers, not features.
Sales teams that master the basics of value-based selling will always outperform teams that rely on old, ineffective approaches, regardless of the technologies implemented.
Combine effective sales methods with the right technology and you’ll leap ahead of the competition. When you’re ready to find technology that really supports great sales strategy and execution, check out the Membrain Editions - turn-key sales playbooks - created in collaboration with some of the world’s greatest sales experts. Sales methodology and technology in perfect harmony!