Has it all really gone full circle, or did it just never change? Selling that is.
Interesting question and a lot of assumptions. I have been in a B2B technology selling environment for more than 4 decades. And yes, I did start at the age of 12…NOT. My first sales territory covered 475 miles of highway from Las Vegas, Nevada to Nogales, Arizona. In those days we did not have a WFH (work from home) style… we had a WFA (work from anywhere) style. No cell phones in “those” days, but you did know where the best client lobbies were based on bathrooms and payphones. We made it into the office on Monday afternoons for “product” training supported by beer and pizza later. In those days there was a lot of emphasis, by many people, placed on entertaining clients and “relationships” based on who you knew. It was a pretty common way of viewing the world of selling. And oftentimes pretty sleazy, at least in my opinion.
I had the amazing good fortune of having a gentleman by the name of Chic Blum as my first outside sales leader and coach. His words to me in those days have followed me for a lifetime and are even more critical today it seems.
His guidance was not too complex and after more than 40 years of this journey, it has become the simplified heart of what I strive to do on a daily basis.
His words were varied, yet came down to the central theme of….
“Help other people succeed!”
I am combining a lot of specific thoughts that he left me with… like “always do the right thing.. you know what that is”, and “we have to earn the right to serve, not buy it”. His overriding theme to me was “help other people succeed.”
In those days, the men and women selling were the Queens and Kings of DATA. We were the source of all data that a client needed to understand anything about the products that they were trying to use… And in those days that data came in the form of DATABOOKS… I know, what’s a DATABOOK? Well, its hundreds of printed pages of product specifications. Every manufacturer had their own, often several different ones. And the clients wanted that data. So as stewards of the data we all drove around with trunk loads of data books and doled them out to our selected deserving clients. We were in control and we loved it.
We added great value to the client’s business world. And those that focused on that pure aspect thrived through every evolution that was to come.
During the decades that passed since then, we have grown, learned, experimented and failed in a variety of “ways” to sell. There was once an IBM sales process, and a Xerox Selling process. We worked our way through 7-step selling, 8-step selling, and back to a 6-step process. Most of us participated in Target Account Selling, Spin Selling, Solution Selling, and on to Value Selling. Later years brought Strategic Selling, Conceptual Selling, the Sandler Selling System, and Challenger. (a personal note: Challenger, as it is truly built and worked by Brent Adamson, is still near perfection, you need to know the “master” to really get it).
Through all of the variations to the theme of selling that can be imagined, Chic’s words still work the best for me. I have learned, executed, and taught nearly every one of the methods above. They all have had their place and their time. They can all be supported by the proper evolution of a well-designed coaching system (normally called a CRM). What normally matters more than anything is that you use one or create your own that you commit to and use. And stay with it over time.
What has become more true over time is the singular importance of focus on serving the client. Anything that distracts from that will lessen your time and energy spent on helping your client succeed, as individuals. Where I work today we have created a Client Engagement Process. With a heart of serving our clients and helping them succeed. Our “system” has lots of detail to it, and as it is used daily by a global team of engineers, it may be a bit too complex…. Maybe! But it is clear to all is that it is driven by CUSP.
Care greatly, about the people that you serve in the clients that you call on.
Understand deeply, all that they care about, and is critical to them as individuals.
Serve endlessly, in every way that you can and never stop. Serve without reserve!
with Purpose, by knowing what matters to them and to their team and serving their need.
CUSP is simple to state and requires great leadership to execute well… or you can just poison everyone with commission and not bother with the high-value tough stuff (sorry, could not help myself with that plug for my past blog on the Poison Known as Commission).
This all comes out to pretty much what we have all learned at Sunday School. It seems the basics in life apply to selling just as well…. Who woulda thunk it? Sounds like it's time for another selling process… The Ten Commandments of Selling. Oops… never mind, that one is already out there too.
Thanks so much all for caring enough to stay engaged.