Seth Godin’s words drip in gold. Actually, that would be an understatement.
I watched an interview with him recently where he essentially said that the pre-internet world we lived in had scarcity in ideas. He says:
“Our culture was based on scarce TV channels, scarce spectrum, scarce bookshelf space, and we blew up all 3 of those.”
The internet continues to astound me. It’s a force of information democratization like one we’ve never seen before.
The Salesperson Paradox
This age of human civilization should be called The Connected Age. It’s easy to connect to thousands, if not millions of people, in ways that have never been possible. The ability to share one’s ideas has never been easier.
If you think about the goal of companies, though, you’d never know that this is the case.
If you work in a traditional company/corporation, you’d almost feel as if you’re still living in The Industrial Age, where making product, shipping it out and collecting a check was the only thing that mattered.
Because companies are so tied down in self-limiting beliefs, their sales professionals are too.
That’s the salesperson’s paradox.
The digital world is reshaping buyer behavior, yet the same sales techniques that were appropriate for the The Industrial Age are still being used today.
The Gift Is Wasted
Call me biased but I believe every salesperson in the world has a gift to share. And this gift is being wasted by having them push ideas that are self-serving agendas, not collaborative points of connection that better the relationship.
Being in sales today is a curse for most of us. We’re told what to do, how to do it and who to do it with. While that itself isn’t so bad, it’s the how to part that really irks me. I’m not talking about guidance and coaching, I’m talking about a simple truth that is still largely ignored.
We sell in ways that aren’t natural. We push, prod and cajole our way in. I get it, this is our job.
But when do we actually share ideas?
When do we inspire buyers to do things that are outside their comfort zone?
And how should these ideas be distributed? Should it be via cold calling? Should it be through a cold email?
This is also the salesperson’s paradox.
We Sell In Ways We Wouldn’t Buy
On December 6th, I had the privilege to speak and collaborate with some of the top CEO’s in Canada.
My first question was “how many of you like getting cold calls?”
You can imagine the unamused looks I received. In this day and age, who likes being interrupted from a random stranger, no matter how amazing their products/services are?
According to former head of Sales Solutions at LinkedIn EMEA, Kevin Scott, 9 out of 10 of top-level B2B decision makers do not respond to cold outreach anymore.
Cold calling isn’t just a waste of time. It could be hurting your business. According to LinkedIn’s research on B2B buyers, more than half think less of brands that still use cold calling.
If you believe every action has a reaction (you should, it’s a universal law in physics), then the question that exists on the other side of that coin is (and this was my follow up question to them):
“Why is it that your sales teams are selling the way you wouldn’t want to buy?”
While this sobering moment of realization mostly brought looks of “a-ha!”, there were definitely some looks of annoyance. I could plainly read it on their face.
This is the salesperson’s paradox: selling the way most of us don’t want to buy.
Are you creating a sales paradox within your sales team?
Containing Connections and Connectivity
Isn’t it sad that we’re so connected at home and yet at work we’re told to tone it down? No, I’m not talking about your social media policy, I’m talking about the policy to persist in selling the way no one really wants to buy.
So while social media and other digital technologies are our best friends, our sales style is virtually the same as it was 20 years ago.
We’re uber connected at home, on the way to work, but during the hours of work, our connectivity is contained.
But if you believe being connected is helping us to be more creative, then does it make sense to contain the connectivity itself?
This, too, is the salesperson’s paradox.
The Bottom Line
The Connected Age has created many other subcultures. The Age of the Customer certainly being the one that affects us the greatest in our profession. Connectivity is flattening the entire buyer-seller relationship.
The one-sided information-advantage that companies and their salespeople once had is disappearing. In some industries this is faster than others, but the change is massive.
Let’s not continue to deprive our sales profession the connectivity it needs. We’re a gift to our economies - let’s empower that concept, not limit it.
Thanks for listening.