Old thoughts become new thoughts for your consideration.
The “Death of a Salesman” is back… perhaps in more ways than one.
This past October, Arthur Miller’s incredible play, Death of a Salesman returned to Broadway.
Death of a Salesman is a 1949 stage play written by American playwright Arthur Miller. The play premiered on Broadway in February 1949, running for 742 performances. It is a two-act tragedy set in late 1940s Brooklyn told through a montage of memories, dreams, and arguments of the protagonist Willy Loman, a traveling salesman who is disappointed with his life, and appears to be slipping into senility. The play contains a variety of themes, such as the American Dream, the anatomy of truth, and infidelity. It won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. It is considered by many critics to be one of the greatest plays of the 20th century.
Check out the 1985 made for TV movie version starring Dustin Hoffman. It’s well worth the time spent, especially considering the aspect that might just apply below….
Over the last many years, this play title has been referred to with respect to the actual job we all refer to as “selling”. Much conjecture has been offered up, from many folks much brighter than me that this playwright's fate may be where this role is headed. Up until now, I would have argued to dispel those ideas. Up until NOW!!!
That phrase is a cornerstone to “change”. Offered up as a perspective of what HAS been true, it is followed up with the “from NOW on” statement of the new norm.
Let’s explore this from a data perspective, rather than an emotional one, reach a conclusion and see what it all might tell us.
Before Covid (perhaps now the new BC) the data about clients wanting to have salespeople actually call on them was already daunting. Just 3 years ago all of the DATA that had been gathered by a key group of research bodies was telling us that 43% of the B2B buyers would prefer to NOT have a salesperson personally call on them. That was their preference….no interaction. That was a HUGE signal that the world was changing, and for the most part, we all chose to ignore that DATA. We were certain that we were different and our clients were different…so we believed.
Well, along comes Covid and changed EVERYTHING! Actually more like just sped things up that were already in motion and evolving.
There is a lot to be said about all of the elements affected, but let’s focus on what our clients WANT, or don’t want.
In the middle of it all, data surfaced that the 43% had shifted again and that around 54% of those same B2B clients now preferred to NOT have a salesperson involved in their purchasing decision…..THEIR choice.
Coming out of the fog a little and into this mid this year, those same sources of data now tell us that 71% of our dear clients do NOT want any sort of assistance from us in making their purchasing decisions! THEIR choice; do NOT involve us. Just data. THIS IS BEYOND CRITICAL!
The extrapolation of this curve implies that in another very few months that percentage will top out at something unimaginable. Leaving some folks still scratching their heads and not doing anything DIFFERENT to reverse this very real trend. It likely will be the same folks still working on how to get back to the good old days…BC.
Willy Lowman, our traveling salesman from the play, is singing a very dreary ballad about now, contemplating dire actions.
But that is drama, life has options, and we MUST make a difference!
So let’s understand WHY this is happening. It’s really not too difficult to understand, we just need to look at how WE all make our personal purchasing decisions today and apply that reality. Think about how you “BUY” and that is the mandate that we have from our clients.
The harsh reality is that for the majority of B2B transactions our sales teams provide NOTHING that the client values.
We argue that our teams provide significant product data, information, use cases, testimonials, research…all about OUR stuff. It must be of value, we believe it is.
Well, regardless of how WE value what we deliver to our clients, they are telling us very loud and very clearly that they do NOT value ANY of what we throw at them. THEY don’t want us involved, THEY don’t need us involved….if you are going to keep doing what you have always done.
Don’t go making corner cases about how you are different and how your situation is unique.
Don’t believe the data. Go ask your clients directly. NO b.s. questionnaire. Go call 30 of your current clients and have a really candid discussion about just what the “normal” salesperson brings to the party. See what they would like to have a salesperson really deliver. The difference will shock you if you are open to change.
That’s the reality and the trend. The root cause is our own doing.
The WHY of it all is the fact that the turnover rate of our sales teams and their leadership is so high that NO company can get beyond the very most basic level of “product stuff knowledge” before those teams have come and gone. And in that time, there is no way that they can develop client engagement skills in their team that is needed for the creation of real client-acknowledged value.
Turnover rates of ~50%, tenure times of ~18 months, and total leadership turnover in less than 3 years, all make for an inability to convey complex learning that would actually provide value to a client if learned and shared.
And sadly the complex messages that would resonate well with a client are not in general even being prepared by ‘those who know” what’s different.
The deeper causation of turnover is the elephant in the room. Compensation. And it’s not the dollar amount that’s the problem. It’s the highly manipulative systems of bogus quotas and corporate-only based objectives driving commission that kills the entire client engagement process that CAN be changed to do good! Significant corporate entities have stepped up and made the change. You can too!
Your choice, ignore the data (it does not apply to your case), accept a 50% turnover rate in your sales team as just the new norm, create mediocrity at best, or step up and lead a charge to make a difference. Bold, difficult, brave…yep!
We are here to help you make a difference. Let me know how I can assist you.
Innovate the THINKING…
…to be DIFFERENT!