The Gist:

  • The legacy approaches are inadequate for today's B2B sales environment.
  • Most sales organizations missed the inflection point by not recognizing what's changed.
  • You can use a modern approach that improves how you sell, regardless of what you've done before.

Extinction is the Rule. Survival is the Exception. - Carl Sagan

Your company believes it is equipping you to succeed in sales by providing you with a standard approach, a process, and collateral to help you create and win new opportunities. No one ever provides approaches or solutions without the very best of intentions, including marketing and product managers who partly influence the company's go-to-market strategy. That strategy, after all, includes how best to engage a client in the sales conversation.

Unfortunately, the majority of training materials used today are based on legacy approaches that are half a century old—or even older. What worked in their original time and environment isn't nearly as effective at meeting today’s challenges. As it pertains to sales approaches, most sales organizations missed the inflection point, the point at which things changed direction. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck using outdated and low-value sales techniques.

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Three Channels in Black and White

Some sales approaches that are still being taught and trained began at a time when color televisions had not yet been widely adopted and changing channels meant getting up from the couch and turning a knob. Cable—let alone Netflix—was years away. At that time, it would be impossible to imagine the sales world you now occupy. No client today would believe that you have to meet with them right now because you’re calling from a phone booth during a rainstorm. But some salespeople still try tactics just as, shall we say, quaint, like refusing to talk about pricing until they’ve fully completed discovery.

The reason these older approaches lost their effectiveness is that they didn’t change when the environment evolved. Salespeople make a living helping others change, but sometimes we’d rather hang tight to the status quo than follow our own advice. As Carl Sagan recognized, survival in a complex environment means moving fast and trying new things. Much of this work is bottom-up, as salespeople recognize what each client needs from the sales conversation and try to provide it, a process far easier for those with the experience and expertise to provide a better prospective client experience. Things that don't change fast enough—whether literal dinosaurs or figurative ones—generally disappear. Trying to perfect an approach that is no longer effective—whether on your own or through coaching—isn't going to help you win more deals.

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No One Sees You Win or Lose

You have the right to avoid becoming extinct by departing from your legacy training, but perhaps that prospect makes you nervous. Think of it this way: when you call your prospective client, chances are good that no one is monitoring your call—especially if you’re using your personal smartphone. You have zero risk of anyone reaching out to a prospect to check your work or to understand how you acquired a meeting.

Most of the time, you likewise walk into your client's office alone. Nobody sends your client a survey to ensure that you opened the conversation by recounting all the things that make your company so great, moved onto explaining who you currently work with, and finished with a deep dive into your products and services. And even if they did, utilizing a modern approach that actually creates value for the client will have them singing your praises. You are free to do what you know works well—and to avoid the things that you know will repel prospective clients.

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Given a Choice

If your company still uses a legacy approach, you have a choice: 1) comply with your training and make it harder to create and win deals, or 2) take care of your clients by addressing their needs and providing with the insights they need to recognize the need to change, make good decisions for their business, and improve their results. It's worth doing right by your clients.

Regardless of your training, your results are based on your effectiveness, so improving it should dominate your time and energy. Your effectiveness is what causes your client to prefer to buy from because of "how you sell," especially when a lot of other people sell "what you sell." If your company uses a legacy approach, one that fails to meet your clients’ needs, find a modern approach and pursue it. No one is going to complain about your success, but they may want to know how you achieved your results.

Do Good Work

  • Identify what tactics and techniques cause your clients to engage with you on sales calls.
  • When your client seems to lose focus, make note of what you’re sharing with them.
  • Do what works, not what used to work.
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Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
August 17, 2021
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