Jul 29, 2015

Sales is Not an Algorithmic Process

Upward_Ed_LewellenIn my post What You Believe is No Longer True, I mentioned a few areas where we have seen dramatic changes in what we believe. I then I promised to post about a few specific areas and here is the first: Sales.

Sales has long be understood to be about relationships. Imagine being back in time about 3,000 years ago when people used to barter. “I’ll kill a lion for you if you’ll plow a field for me”, might have been a conversation that took place. In order for that trade to take place, an in-depth understanding of just how good I am at killing lions and how good you are at plowing fields would have to take place to ensure that we were both going to get what we wanted. A relationship had to be formed so that trust would be built and the barter would take place. Of course, as time evolved, money was formed and the situation became much more of a straightforward transaction than a relationship.

As the world has continued to evolve, so has the sales transaction process. Over my last 30 years in sales and sales leadership, I’ve seen just about every sales approach, sales process, and sales method written. I’ve taken Sandler Sales’ President’s Club training, Communispond’s Socratic Selling, Miller Heiman’s Conceptual and Strategic Selling courses, I’ve worked with people only once-removed from Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, and many more. I’ve seen many, many ways that companies attempt to motivate people to make more sales and to get prospects to buy. If you’re like me, then you get this awful, gut-wrenching feeling every time someone says they have the “newest” sales training or “latest” techniques to motivate your sales team. I have yet to find something “new”. Like so much in the world of sales, personal development, and motivation, it’s the same, tired, and worn-out processes repackaged and the only things “new” are the words used to describe the same things. This is done either to make the terminology up-to-date or for someone to claim the material as being of their origination.

So, what beliefs are the sales and motivation training based on? As an example, I’m going to use information from a company whose website is dated 2015. Here are the steps:
Lead Generation (Outbound for Sales Reps)
Qualify Leads (Budget, Capacity, Timing)
Demonstrate Value (Translate into Prospect Needs, Wants, Desires)
Guide Prospect Understanding (Manage Objections, Frame Thinking)
Deliver and Support (Customer Satisfaction!)

The company then says this, “Leverage these steps in the sales process to increase win probability, influence customer deal size and speed pipeline velocity.”

Now, really think about what has been done in the above sales training and all other sales training “systems”. They have taken a heuristic, relationship-based situation (selling) and turned it into an algorithmic process. Do you still believe this is the way to conduct sales? If you’re an executive, business owner, or a person in a position to make purchases for your organization, do you want to be approached as if you are part of a process? A methodology? A conquest to be had?

When the people were bartering many years ago, were they thinking about a step-by-step process? Or, were they thinking more about the relationship? It was the relationship that was most important and the same is true today! Unless you are stuck in a time-warp of the 80’s, you no longer believe that we live in a world where the blue suit and red tie make us obey their every command. Yet, the sales training we have available still lives on from that era. How should it be different?

As I have coached literally hundreds, possibly thousands, of salespeople, one of the major items was concerning the intent they have when approaching people, whether it’s a first engagement or following up with their best client. Neuroscience has proven that there is an “underlying element” where we “feel” a person before we intellectualize them. What does this mean for salespeople? If a salesperson meets a person for the first time and they have the “I wonder what I can get from this person” attitude and intent, the other person will “feel” it, even if only unconsciously. You’ve probably had that experience, right?

How else might the intent of a salesperson cause their algorithmic sales process to become useless? Have you ever been in a sales meeting and you can just tell that the salesperson is desperate to make the sale? Many times you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you just know. Other times it’s quite conspicuous. That “underlying element”, the intent, is ever-present and can be felt. As I have told salespeople, “When you’re desperate for a sale, it’s like blood in the water to sharks”.

So, one of the major beliefs about sales that is no longer true is that it’s an algorithmic process. Sales really is about the relationship and relationships are heuristic. And, that’s why the best salespeople build the relationships that cause them to be successful for a long time instead of enabling them to get just a quick ‘hit’. They also have a consistent flow of sales and not the usual peaks-and-valleys most salespeople using the traditional systems experience. Salespeople following a heuristic process also find that the “steps” in the algorithmic processes just naturally fall into place because of the natural and “Human” relationships that are formed. Intent is one of the keys to successful sales in the world of today!

Dr. Edward Lewellen is a Master Executive Coach, leadership and sales expert, and keynote speaker for some of the largest global organizations.

Author of The 90-Second Mind Manager