Request for Proposals (RFPs) are more frequent, as buyers do their own research and engage suppliers much later in the buying process. Buyers attempt to drive us toward commoditisation while sellers strive to differentiate. With closer budget scrutiny, senior executives and procurement professionals are more involved and the number of decision makers has increased.
“Selling has changed because buying has fundamentally changed.” — Brian Fetherstonhaugh – Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, OgilvyOne Worldwide
Everyone is talking about content marketing, and some, content selling. Social selling is all the rage. Selling with insights is a hot topic, and Richardson Sales Performance’s Selling with Insights® programme is one of our most popular new courses in our recent history. Cold calling is dead, or it’s not, depending on who you listen to. Inside Sales is growing and predicted to overshadow field sales. Decision makers are buried in email and voicemails often are not returned. Smartphones might as well be surgically attached to us and there is no downtime.
Sound familiar? Are you dizzy yet?
But Some Things Remain the Same
As much as the landscape has changed, and forced new behaviours for sales professionals who want to remain relevant, there are some key things that have not changed or changed very little.
- People still buy based on some combination of emotion, logic and credibility (or if you’re a fan of Aristotle: ethos, logos and pathos). They make decisions based on a combination of business and personal needs and wants. Organisational politics, positioning and posturing still lingers. While the Millennials and the digital natives of Generation Z may have different values and approaches toward working, social interaction and digital connectedness, they remain human beings with all of our best traits and worst foibles. Emotions, kindness, decency, altruism, helpfulness and trust still matter a great deal. Researcher and author Dan Pink posits that purpose, autonomy and mastery remain our intrinsic motivators. We evolve and are influenced by our environment, but our hardwiring makes change slow. People are still… well, people.
- Dialogue and discourse remain foundations of effective human communication, whether in marriage, friendship, learning or business. The open, respectful exchange of ideas around a shared interest or a common purpose, and the willingness to listen, learn and share with others is powerful glue for relationships of all kinds and can generate the impetus for the positive changes we all seek.
Dialogue: The Oldest New Killer Sales Skill
It is for these reasons that we, at Richardson Sales Performance, believe that dialogue is the oldest, new killer sales skill. Whether you are opening a sales meeting, leading a needs discussion, exploring solutions or establishing next steps, it’s all about (or should be all about) engaging your client in an effective dialogue.
Are you ready for this? (Perhaps you should sit.)
It is also a critical skill when selling with insights.
If you have been thinking that selling with insights is simply a way to use data, information or expertise to shock and awe your prospects or clients with your brilliance or show them the error of their ways, you might want to rethink that. We have found this to be one of the many possible traps that sales reps unwittingly get snared in, that completely undermines their effort and objectives..
The Sales Conversation Pendulum
Instead, we think of the sales conversation as a pendulum that swings back and forth from question-led dialogue to insight-led dialogue, based on the context of the conversation and desired outcomes. In our Selling with Insight® programme, we teach that listening, observation and judgement are necessary to help reps recognise the cues and clues that indicate which approach will produce the best results.
Hmm. Insightful Dialogue. What a Concept!
In fact, the pendulum swings even within our model for delivering a personalised insight message. We teach sales reps to use the same Checking skills and The Six Critical Skills (communication skills) that have been a core part of our Consultative Selling Skills course for years. And when reps use an insight and have the desired effect with it (perhaps trigger a new idea, pique interest or create urgency), this is just the beginning of a longer sales conversation where the rep and client explore possibilities together. This requires… [dramatic pause for emphasis]… dialogue, the new, yet oldest killer sales skill of all.
Want to Have a Conversation about Dialogue with Insights?
We speak with clients weekly who are struggling to scale an insight methodology across their sales organisation. Often, they are falling into common traps and want to start to use insights in an effective manner. In other cases, they are having some success but want to improve the effectiveness of their efforts. If you would like to explore any of these things, or just have a dialogue and swing on the Sales Conversation Pendulum with us, reach out and let us know or comment below… we’d enjoy hearing your thoughts.