The sell sheet did nothing to improve the salespeople who used them when they called on their prospective clients. Like the catalogue, it may have improved sales, but it did nothing to make the salesperson more effective. It allowed for more orders.
The telephone, about which I am still romantic, didn’t do anything more to make salespeople better at their trade, their craft, or their art. It eliminated distance as an obstacle and it improved efficiency, reducing the time it took to reach their prospective clients.
The laptop and the PowerPoint deck didn’t improve any salesperson’s salesmanship, woman or man, and many would argue the effect has been detrimental on the whole (an idea with which I would vehemently disagree, as it is a useful tool in the right hands). Email doesn’t make a better salesperson, and automation is in some ways giving up on the hard work of making great salespeople.
If you believe this is true, as I do, then you recognize that communication mediums can change without improving the mindset or skill sets of the salespeople—or any other group of individuals—who use them. As United States Airforce Colonel John Boyd, war fighter and strategist, said when he admonished the Pentagon and U.S. Congress, it’s “People, ideas, and technology. In that order.”
The transformation of sales is from transactional to super-consultative and super-relational, from self-oriented to other-oriented, from reactive to proactive, from selling product to generating strategic outcomes, from execution to accountability for those strategic outcomes, and from responding to opportunities to creating opportunities. To make this transformation, a salesperson needs business acumen and situational knowledge that would make them a 52% SME (or better). They need to know how to be super-consultative, which requires that they be able to offer the advice that their clients need to produce better results.
If the digital tools were capable of producing these outcomes, it would truly be the miracle that many believe it to be. But, alas, the tool kit, no matter the size, no matter the reach, and no matter the efficiency, doesn’t improve the effectiveness of the salesperson one iota.
The transformation is occurring, but it’s far more disruptive than digital.