Many years ago, I sat next to a wisdom-ladled gentleman at a sales function. Looking around a room, full of sales professionals, he said to me, “sales has two types of people in it…those looking to “help others” and those looking to “help themselves”.
Shoulders up people he said, “leverage their heads to help the client achieve their business objectives.”
Shoulders down people he said, “leverage everything but their head to run around and get the best pricing to win the business.”
The world of sales has evolved a lot over the last 40 years from “shoulders down” to “shoulders up”:
In the 1970’s sales professionals were taught to take a need fulfillment approach. Simply ask the customer what there needs are and see if you can meet those needs with what you have.
In the 1980’s sales professionals were taught to take a problem solving approach. Simply ask the customer what keeps them awake at night and see you can solve their problems.
In the 1990’s sales professionals were taught to take a solution selling approach. Simply ask the customer about their business objectives, their business problems, and their business needs and see if you can help them achieve their objectives, solve their problems, and meet their needs.
Today in 2013 sales professionals are now no longer being asked to be a trusted advisor they are being forced to be one. No longer can a sales professional thrive in an environment of being faster, better, cheaper because that is all now being driven to the internet. If the customer knows what they need they are one click away from an order being placed. Sales professionals must now create value with their “shoulders up”. Please allow me some latitude here…I know the world of sales is not this cut and dry…there are government agencies, there is Sarbanes-Oxley, there is Wal-Mart, etc.
I work with both types of sales professionals.
Behaviors I see a “shoulders down” sales professionals displaying:
- See time as the enemy…they fear the end of the month, quarter, and year
- Create value by cutting their price
- Ask the customer jurassic questions…get jurassic answers…and then make jurassic recommendations
Behaviors I see a “shoulders up” sales professional displaying:
- They see time as their friend because they have a strategy for their territory, major accounts, to include a plan for their next customer visit.
- Create value by helping their customers achieve their objectives, solve their problems and meet their needs
- Ask beyond the obvious questions…get beyond the obvious answers…and then make beyond the obvious recommendations
I am not saying taking a “shoulders down” approach is bad. I am saying that in order to create value with the customer…it is not enough. I say this because “it is hard to solve new problems with old thinking” as Albert Einstein reminds us. Have you ever purchased something from Amazon? Have you ever talked to a sales professional at Amazon? Again, meeting needs of customers is moving to the internet…creating value and building relationships with customers is not. “Selling smarter not harder” is what we said and aimed for in the ’90’s…”Selling smarter not harder” is now expected in 2013. Today sales professionals are being asked to sell differently and sell together. That takes more than good will, it takes real skill.
Just like a dog can sniff fear…we as humans can sniff someones intent. Your intent equals your energy…your energy equals your brand…and your brand is your promise. Meeting needs is no longer the acceptable goal anymore…creating value is the ultimate goal.