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There are two dominant sales models being practiced by B2B sales organizations and sales professionals. The most prevalent of the two models is the legacy sales approach. The concepts and methodologies in the legacy approaches were created and developed between the late 1960s and the early 1990s. If you wanted to, you could trace the legacy approach to the late 1880s, when companies scaled their business by adding salespeople.

The second dominant sales model is a modern sales approach for B2B sales. The modern sales approach uses modern sales techniques, even though the heart of the modern sales process is much older and sturdier than what you might find in the legacy approaches. The modern approach is based on the idea that people take advice from those with greater knowledge and experience. You can find stories throughout all of human history where a person with power and responsibility sought the counsel of a wise person. As a salesperson, you can be that wise person.

The modern sales methodologies use information disparity to execute a value-based selling approach that enables a better sales conversation and improves sales results. When we talk about creating value in the sales conversation, we are not talking about the value of the sales organization's products or services. Instead, we are speaking to the buying experience.

To understand the difference between the two dominant sales models, we will look at each approach and its view of value.

The Legacy Sales Approach

The legacy approach starts with a sales meeting agenda that promises to tell the client about the salesperson's company and how they are helping other companies like their prospective clients. They also promise to "learn about" the client's business. This is close to what has been described as solution selling.

The legacy sales approach believes that in order to get the results they need, the client must buy what the company sells. Salespeople who use a legacy approach believe they are selling a product. Later we will see why this perspective harms the sales organization's results.

The legacy sales approach is one of positioning, talking up the salesperson's company, sharing the logos of the company’s large clients, and explaining their products and services and the results they improve. This tactic is supposed to make the salesperson credible by way of working for highly successful companies. However, the legacy salesperson’s credibility is tested when B2B buyers don't find a buying experience they find valuable. It is increasingly challenging for salespeople using this sales model to secure a second meeting.

The part where the salesperson "learns" about the company's problems is a ploy to ask the customer about their pain points. The problem is that this does nothing to help them pass the audition that is a first sales meeting. The reason: Getting a prospective client to tell you their pain points doesn’t help your sales champion.

Sales organizations and sales reps that use a legacy sales model fail to create an opportunity and lose potential deals. This is because they project the belief that they will deliver the value the client needs after a contract is signed. The problem is, the salesperson hasn’t proven themselves as being able to understand what the client needs, much less deliver it. The legacy sales models are built on the idea that a sales organization should win because other companies trust them. Not only is this rarely true, but it’s also short-term thinking.

The Modern Sales Model

An easy way to understand the difference between the legacy sales model and the modern sales model is that the modern one starts with two categories of value creation.

The first category of value in the modern sales model is the value of the decision-makers, stakeholders, and other buyers' experience in the sales conversation. The legacy approach doesn't recognize that prospective clients need more guidance from someone who can help them understand the decision they need to make.

The modern techniques are built on information disparity, which creates value for clients in the sales conversation by improving their buying experience and differentiating the salesperson and their company. The strategy in a modern approach is built on the idea that the greater the value the salesperson creates, the more the buying company prefers the salesperson.

The second category of value is the value of what the salesperson and their company sell. Those practicing this modern sales approach believe creating greater value is the key to winning deals. It's not that the modern sales model doesn't care about the value the client experiences after they buy, but rather that they don't believe they will win the business at all unless they can create value for the client beforehand.

In a time of accelerating, constant, disruptive change, this model enables B2B buying. The approach creates value for buyers and improves the customer's journey. It’s also real sales engagement.

The Difference Between the Two Sales Models

Imagine there are two segments when dealing with clients. The first segment is the value you create in the sales conversation. The second segment is the value the client receives after buying. The legacy approach misses the first segment, as the approach is transactional. The modern approach includes both segments.

The legacy sales approach believes the contest is between companies and their products and services. The modern sales model believes the contest is between the salespeople competing for the client's business. The salespeople using a legacy model have a poor sales strategy with the first segment, the sales conversation. Without the first segment, it's incredibly difficult to get to the second segment, the value delivered after the buyer signs a contract.

The reason sales leaders and sales managers ask their sales force to create more opportunities is because their win rates are too low to allow them to reach their sales goals. Because these leaders succeeded with the legacy approach, they believe it is still a valid sales model. There is little reason to create more opportunities only to lose them. You are better off improving your sales effectiveness.

Transaction Sales Models and Consultative Sales Models

In Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competitors you will find an explanation of why when you start a conversation by talking about your company and your products, your prospective client treats you like a commodity. This approach causes your sales model to be a transactional sales cycle. These legacy sales approaches have been increasingly losing effectiveness in B2B sales.

The more your conversation is like your competitors’, the more certain you can be that you are not creating the first category of value, the value of the sales conversation.

You can offer a better buyer experience when you start a conversation that proves you are credible because you are sharing information that helps the client to understand their environment, why they are struggling to produce the better outcomes they need, and how best to make a change.

The Future of Business-to-Business Sales

The future of B2B sales is moving away from transactional sales, especially in complex B2B sales. This is an evolutionary change, one where sales models are transcending older models, keeping what is worth keeping, and changing what no longer works. This isn't going to reverse soon. If our environment is unstable and creates uncertainty, buyers will prefer working with an expert and an authority when making important decisions.

Those who haven't yet recognized that the legacy sales model is broken will have a difficult time improving their sales results. A good salesperson with an ineffective sales model will never outproduce one with a highly effective sales model, one that creates value for decision makers. See the B2B sales strategy roadmap for more on how to create value for your prospective clients.

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Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 19, 2023
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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