Is there a “right” way to sell? Perhaps. But then the world can change in a flash and the “right” way no longer works.
Take the 2008 financial crisis, for example. The opportunities and challenges created by the economic events of 2008 are well chronicled in a slew of books and articles, and even on the big screen. The movie “The Big Short” and Joe Ponzio’s book “F Wall Street” are emblematic in their break down of the debacle of The Great Recession.
For those of us in sales, we don’t need movies or books to document that period because we still experience the effects to this day. Buying behavior changed, as some organizations were forced into dramatic cost–cutting measures just to stay alive. Other companies took advantage of the overall chaos to squeeze their existing suppliers to see what kind of “deal” they could get as competitors to incumbent vendors made desperate offers in an attempt to stay afloat.
Meanwhile, what some call the “data tsunami” of information created by the Internet continued to gain momentum. Buyers were suddenly armed with a wealth of information that did not require any interface with a sales person to obtain. Alas, the successful sales techniques of the past were no longer effective for some in customer–facing positions. Finally, the heyday of the credit–fueled buying economy from 2001-2007 came to a halt, and sellers who did not adjust suffered greatly.
In my role as a sales trainer and consultant these past 14 years, I’ve seen a constantly changing new twist and turn on the “right” way to sell in light of current economic conditions. Personally, I have worked through four popular sales methodologies in my career: SPIN Selling, Miller Heiman, Solution Selling, and Customer Centric Selling.
Admittedly, each of those methodologies provides an excellent framework for helping enterprise sales organizations understand how to organize themselves and face the market. However, the one aspect that has regularly challenged my clients is that these programs often have components that are too complex to use in a practical format.
During many of the conversations I have with sales and executive leaders, I’m regularly told that they have “tried” two, three, or sometimes even four different methodologies but none of them worked. They just didn’t stick. What I hear loud and clear is that they want something that’s their own, a sales process that reflects how their customers buy, aligned with the tools and skills that their sales people can use to excel.
The ultimate goal of a sales process in any organization is to help drive more revenue. Is there a right way to sell? I’d say yes. But it needs to be what’s right for your organization and sales team. And a popular sales methodology might not be the answer—especially when the economy takes a turn for the better or worse. On the other hand, a customized sales process might be a perfect fit.