Sales, Sales Force, Salesperson, Sales Call – More Death

If you’re a regular reader then you know I’ve taken a stand against all of those who are prematurely predicting the death of selling in some form or other. Enough already everyone! It’s true. We don’t need salespeople or sales forces anymore. Happy? For buying gas, pizza, airline tickets, hotel rooms, groceries, iPods, etc., we can figure it out by ourselves. But what if it’s not for something like that? Some more examples:

The last four times it rained hard, water was streaming over our gutters, staining the white stucco on our home. And water sits near the foundation on the side of the house. Another downspout doesn’t direct water away from the front of the home and is causing staining and rotting problems. Should I just go on the internet and order a new gutter system? Should I drive to Home Depot or Lowes and buy some gutter supplies? Can the clerk solve my problem while I stand in the aisle? I doubt it. So I called a gutter company and the owner/salesperson stopped by and helped me to understand the real problem; The home is so big and the size of the roof so enormous that the residential gutters on the back of the home are too small. Solution, replace the rear gutter with larger, commercial grade gutters to handle the volume of water coming off the roof. Simple. But not so simple that I could have solved that problem without his help. He also said he could solve the downspout problems with deflectors. He told me how much and I asked when he do it. If I was the type who shopped around – and I’m not – he would have needed to differentiate himself. He did anyway, but didn’t have to.

If I’m purchasing a single laptop computer, and I know what I need and like, I can buy one on line from Dell (transactional sale). If I’m outfitting my entire company with the latest in technology (a complex sale) I’d better have some companies come in and recommend the appropriate solution for our needs (another complex sale).

If I need a marketing company to help with our branding, promotions, image, advertising and public relations (Seth should get this example), I’m not heading to the internet. Instead, I’m seeking out companies that are known to be effective at this, interviewing them (salespeople) and choosing not the one with the best price, not the one who is closest, not the one that has the most awards, not the one who has experience in my industry, not the one who can do it the quickest, and not the one who has the friendliest salesperson. I’m choosing the one who best understands my problem and can give me the most appropriate solution that is most likely to work (solution sale).

My friend sells a commodity. He sells based on price on Mondays, lowest cost of ownership on Tuesdays, his selling ability on Wednesdays, his ability to provide expert service on Thursdays and his long-standing relationships on Fridays. For a commodity (transactions when sold as commodities, solutions when sold as value added) it’s absolutely critical to effectively differentiate and add value. But don’t add value for the sake of adding value, often perceived as an excuse for a higher price, but add customer driven value, justification for a higher price and the fuel to lower overall cost. Most importantly, selling a commodity requires that one resists the temptation to quote what is requested at the lowest price and instead, identify a reason why the product they are requesting may not be the best choice and provide a better way to use or purchase a different product. Try doing that without a salesperson.

Anyway, I can’t keep writing about this. It’s off topic. But it’s driving me nuts. The impending death of the sales call, the sales force and the salesperson is not only exaggerated, it’s a big lie.