The Death of (Today’s) Salesman

Some of you will recognize Arthur Miller’s 1940s fictional character in “Death of a Salesman” a book some of us had to read in high school. Not familiar? The subject matter is about a lonely traveling salesman who became less and less successful. We are empathetic for Willy. He knew he was failing but didn’t keep up with the times. He took no skill improvement classes, no sales training, or made any adjustments even though changes were happening in his industry. He resorts to fantasy to get through the day. Inevitably he is fired by the son of the man who hired him 36 years earlier. Sad, I know.

What could he do about it?

Our selling process has changed with the times. When I was young, I successfully sold by “winging it”; with no preparation. Then I switched to using Qualify, Present, Close and Chase. That worked for a while until I learned a better sales system and my closing ratios advanced. Today we are facing the next evolution; it combines inbound marketing, CRM software, and social selling. Does this mean the traditional selling process does not work? No, not at all. Business owners are now investing in CRM systems with add-on software in addition to sales skills training. Yet, there remains a low adoption rate by some in sales who refuse to adapt to the new landscape.

Are you or your sales teams using social media to sell?

“(Only) 5% of B2B sales teams consider social media a successful lead generation method” [1]

Frequently, I meet with owners who have at least one Willy Loman. I feel for the Willy’s of the world. If, however, the business owner, or the sales director, insisted on sales skills and accountability earlier, Willy might have been more productive rather than being a drag on himself and the sales team. Willy should have recognized his selling techniques of limited interactions, ineffective calls and using the same old scripts were inefficient, and he needed to change.

“73% of salespeople using social selling as part of their sales process outperform their peers and exceed quota 23% more often” [2]

Successful teams use inbound marketing and social selling with an updated selling process. In its simplest form, they combine education, adding advisory value and personalizing sales. More importantly, they meet buyers where they are, nurturing them as they progress along the buyer’s journey to find the best solutions to their prospects challenge.

“A team of 50 sales reps leaves about 1277 hours of voicemails per month. The average v-mail response rate is 4.38%” [3]

Software automation and online research allow us to find buyers in their journey much earlier in the sales cycle than with traditional sales. To develop inbound customers, sales must provide more value than what the customer can find on their own.

Ask yourself these three critical questions:

  • Are your salespeople rushing to close or rushing to understand and add value to the customer’s search?
  • Are your sales people acquiring new skills?
  • Are your sales people trained to know how to nurture, build trust and add value to move an online lead to become a long-term client?

Whether your team is using a traditional selling model or an incoming process, a fundamental question remains: Are you holding your sales team accountable to themselves and the team?   

Do you have comments on this blog? Let me know your thoughts below.

[1]Ken Krogue

[2] Aberdeen

[3] RingDNA