Great salespeople when my Dad entered the industry: Aggressive, well polished, masters of phycology and social skills.
Great salespeople today: Knowledgeable, subject matter experts tasked at helping their prospects through the buyer’s journey.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: the industry of sales is changing. As many times as it’s been said, the statement is true: the entire sales industry is shifting and the dinosaur's are becoming extinct.
Today great sales is about being a subject-matter expert, not a master of psychology and social skills. For anyone who has successfully sold a product in 2015 this will make sense, but to the junior salesman who just watched Glengarry Glen Ross this will be confusing.
A traditional Sales 101 course might suggest that rather than develop a deep understanding of your field, junior sales reps should read books on the theory of reciprocity and other buyer phycological tactics. But sales psychology is an optimization that can be used to sell 10% more. In order to see 10x gains, the aspiring salesman must study what they sell, not how to sell it.
I’m going to say that again, because I think it’s one of the biggest shifts in our industry: The aspiring salesman must study what they sell, not how to sell it.
When a prospect enters your funnel it is for one reason: they have a business problem. They may need to cut server costs. Or maybe they need to improve their website’s performance. And there are two ways your company can help them solve that problem: The first is by putting your product in their workflow (duh). But the second is one that many sales teams miss. It is education through the buying process. And great sales teams begin to solve prospects' problems before ever asking for a credit card.
Hubspot is a great example of a sales team that solves problem’s throughout the entire sales cycle. When you request a demo a Sales Development Representative will look at your website and offer three suggested improvements. Then when you talk to an Account Executive they may teach you about how to use Twitter to drive more leads. Before ever spending a dollar with Hubspot you can increase your website traffic.
But none of this is possible without subject matter expertise. In other words, you gotta know your shit to educate your prospects.
In his recent book, Hubspot’s CRO and former VP of Sales writes about his criteria for hiring sales. At the top of the list: subject matter expertise. In other words, he was more interested in hiring experts in marketing than in sales. The lowest trait on that list, you ask? Aggressive sales behavior.
30 years ago when my Dad entered the world of business, sleezy salespeople could get away with tricks and manipulation. That's because the balance of information was skewed towards the salesperson. But today, that doesn’t fly. The internet has made markets transparent and more competitive. If you use buyer phycology tricks to sell the wrong product to a prospect you’ll pay the price on social media and in forums.
If you want to be the best salesperson on your sales floor put down Daniel Pink and other sales psychology books. Call up your best customer, take them to lunch, and ask them what problems they face every day. After the meeting go and solve that problem for them. Then go down the list and do this for your best customers once a month.
Do this and you’ll be every customer’s best friend. You’ll have the largest book of reference customers on your team. And most importantly you’ll know exactly how to solve every prospect’s problems. That's great sales.
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