Despite all the tools available, both for sales people to execute their craft, and for companies to “enable” them, the narrative for many in sales has remained woefully unchanged over the last thirty years. Sure the delivery methods have changed, the means of engagement have evolved beyond where we could have imagined 10 years ago, yet what most sales people say once they engaged has one can argue, devolved. One can buy into the argument that sales technology, with all its capabilities, has made great sales people better, an A seller an A+; but it has also made the average seller, less than average, robotic and predictable; B sellers to B-, and C sellers to U, for useless. While it is easy to point at sales people, the pundits have to take credit, or blame.
The narrative we seem to be stuck in in sales is all about pain, all around need. Ask any group of sellers what they want to know about a new prospect, and the vast majority will say they want to know the prospect’s “pain”, or “pain point”; they want to know the buyer’s need(s); what their problem(s) are or about to have. Makes sense, who doesn’t want to reap the benefits presented by lower hanging fruit, easy to pluck, one can say that it can be plucked by almost anyone, with little talent or skill. I even hear managers dispatching their people back to a prospect with the clear command of “find their pain point and sell them, or at least make it forecastable.”
This all works well if your quota can be covered entirely by prospects with pain; and not just this year, but next and the one after, etc. What you are betting on is that pains, needs and problems will grow at a faster pace than your quota. When I ask sales people if they can exceed quota with just the pained and injured, and most say no. You would think given that fact only a small percentage of a given market recognizes or admits to pain, you are faced with a choice. You can update your skills, and I don’t mean your technology or app skills, but sales skills; a path chosen by some companies and sales professionals.
The other choice is easier, doesn’t always fill the gap, but chosen by many. It is exemplified by a conversation I have shared in the past, that I had with a former leader from an IT consulting and services firm. Unsolicited he decided to share his view on selling:
“My job is to find the soft underbelly of the beast (read prospect), stab it, and then offer up the cure.”
I am not suggesting that is what sales people set out to do, but when I hear that they are looking for the they “pain point” so they can push on it, I can only imagine the fat smiling face of the fellow above.
It is time to elevate your skills so you can sell to the whole market, not just the weakest of the herd, yet not weak enough to pinch a few more dollars off your price, sometimes to the point where it leaves you and your company’s margin in pain. You can socialize pain, you can spin needs, but to really sell, to anyone in your market, not just the lame and suffering, you need to develop some sales skills, and elevate your game.