Selling has changed, and we should reconsider our biased view of it

Always Be Closing
Screenshot from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross

There is no need for business to business salespeople anymore: “We let all our salespeople go and it didn’t affect our sales at all” is a story we hear more and more. And there are good reasons to think like this.

If customers have issues, they can do their own research online. The Internet is full of information that can help them understand problems and learn how others are solving them. Customers can attend webinars, download white papers, discuss their problems with other people, and collect opinions. In the best case, when customers have made their decision, they can finalize the deal online.

Thus, it is no surprise that it is getting harder and harder for salespeople to get customer meetings. In the experience of most customers, the typical salesperson doesn’t add any value to their decision-making process. Why should a customer meet with a self-interested salesperson who asks irrelevant questions, gives boring presentations, and provides minimal insights? Customers can get better service online.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. As a seller, you need to engage online so that you are visible in customers’ search queries, discussions and recommendations. Let customers do the first two-thirds of the buying process themselves and find you; when they do, be ready to serve them and provide value.

And this doesn’t mean that selling is not required anymore or that passive waiting can be considered as a strategy. You still need to be proactive in opening the dialogue and keeping it going. However, make sure that you provide value in every step of the process and expect customer to be generally well-informed.

Now we are getting to the inspiration for this blog post: Juuso Myllyrinne, with his excellent insights into the Finnish bias in regards to branding, reminded me of how attached we Finns are to the notion of the heroic salesperson’s role in the selling process. Instead of genuinely being interested in understanding and helping customers with their issues we still yearn to be, or hire, this epic figure who can open any door and close any deal for our product or service. And as Finns we think we are bad at this.

But that approach to sales is finished. We as Finns don’t have to excel at it anymore. The future of sales lies in customer focused service: adding value, communicating it and making buying easy. Finnish engineering culture provides an excellent basis for this approach to sales. We are competent and trustworthy. We just need to open up, engage, and focus on the customer.