I once thought Salespeople were on the way out because of marketing. Now I realize the opportunity to succeed is in following the footsteps of Marketers.
I’m a Salesperson at heart and always have been.
At 18, I started my own business (my own version of my family business) and went around the Midwest selling storage buildings that I manufactured, delivered, and erected. I set up booths at farm shows, spent weeks on the road canvassing, and bought radio time on local stations, all to get a chance to sit down with a prospect. That meant I had to go everywhere my clients were whenever they were available and somehow deliver on the promises I had made with each purchase order. Selling was a natural part of the job, and I really never thought twice about it. The business ended after a few years, partly due to my inexperience as a business owner and partly due to the aftershocks of the recession throughout the construction world. I took some time to think about the different hats I was wearing and what hat I really wanted to wear next.
The hat that I decided to wear? Yeah, you guessed it…Salesperson.
So, I moved into the automotive world because “If I can sell a building that the client can’t see, touch, or feel and doesn’t receive for a month or more…I can definitely sell a truck that someone came in to purchase”. And truthfully, it was “just to get through the winter” as I had planned to go right back to selling buildings as soon as possible. I finally left the dealership nearly six years later.
After that, I spent time in insurance, financial advisement, and even in marketing. I’ve been very fortunate to experience success in every field, which I fully accredit to my sales abilities. Today, my companies operate in the b2b space, offering sales and marketing software and services. We sell ourselves and our products every day to business owners who want to launch, grow, and scale their business to the next level.
I tell you all that to say this:
I have had a love/hate relationship with sales my entire career.
I believe sales provides a path to freedom for the masses, which eBay, Amazon, Shopify, and many others have already proven. I’ve worked with thousands of Salespeople at this point and even trained hundreds myself, so I don’t say this lightly — while some Salespeople are great, most Salespeople deserve ALL the hate they get. Many are “clerks” and just take orders, while others still use outdated methodologies to manipulate their prospects. In an age where it should be easier than ever to trust, due to the wealth of information available to consumers, most Salespeople are more untrustworthy than ever.
For these reasons, and a few others I won’t share today, I openly said that Salespeople were on the way out about a year ago to anyone that would listen.
So, why did I think that Salespeople were on the way out?
We launched our marketing agency a few years back and realized we could operate without a sales staff. While maybe not quite as capable as a quality Salesperson, I felt that good marketing could do the job effectively enough. And let’s face it, my sales funnel doesn’t take 25% of my revenue and then walk around beating on its chest about how great it is…
But the same Achilles heel I saw before may provide the path forward for those Salespeople who not only want to stick around but want to truly grow and succeed — Marketing.
Marketing is beautiful and disgusting at the same time. The best marketing goes unnoticed and impacts the way you think, feel, and live your life. Social Media is the best example of this. Content is created and consumed without thought. We share articles, comment on threads, and share memes based on our own intentions and beliefs.
Good Marketers are smart; they study human behavior, trends, and technology. They know where you’ll be, when you’ll be there, and how to get your attention. Bad Marketers, however, focus only on getting your attention. They take pictures in front of rented cars, claim successes that are easily debunked, and often have no real depth of knowledge when probed for specifics.
Regardless of the intent or ability, marketing provides a path to spread information quickly, and we’ve all helped to flood the marketplace with noise with every like, comment, and share.
In my opinion, for whatever it’s worth, a Salesperson that wants to succeed will follow in the footsteps of marketers and clean up the messes they’ve made.
Ways for Salespeople to follow in the footsteps of Marketers to succeed.
Truly Study Your Prospects And What They Consume.
Only the very best marketing feels personal. The Marketers behind it know everything about their prospects. Messaging is often more focused on casting a net than personalizing experiences. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of most marketing campaigns — a bigger net catches more fish.
The most successful Salespeople I have come across study who their prospects are and what they consume. Not just content (blogs, books, podcasts), but other things as well…what sites they visit, how long they stay there, where they hang out online in general. Most importantly, they commit this information to memory and see the bigger picture of how their prospects think, feel, and live…and then they seek to meet those needs.
If you want to be successful in sales today, you have to understand your customer. If that means consuming podcasts about them or visiting communities they frequent to listen in on a conversation, so be it. This isn’t about trying to “look the part”; this is about really being interested in their world and wanting to be a piece of it. Without doing so, you’ll never truly understand your prospect and personalize your messages.
Most salespeople still are not doing this, and that’s the biggest reason they aren’t reaching their goals.
The markets are saturated with nameless, faceless salespeople who don’t care about you or your personal challenges. If you want to stand out, you have to better understand people and then meet their needs.
Stop Selling Your Prospects, Start Educating Them.
Without a Salesperson, a Marketer is required to find a “pain point” and communicate exactly how their product/service will solve the problem and help their prospect achieve the desired result. They often do this without ever having a traditional “sales pitch.” They must educate.
Now, I’m not suggesting you never sell. Instead, I suggest that your interaction with prospects should be centered around education, even when selling. Why? Think about this: When someone asks you a question or offers an opportunity to have a conversation, what do you usually say? Do you share your opinions and tell them why they should buy from you? Or do you discuss their situation to find out how to meet their needs best?
If you’re like most Salespeople I know, it’s the former. Because marketing has created so much content, it’s hard to understand everything your prospects “know” about your product/service.
This is a huge mistake (in my opinion) and will keep you in the same spot you’re currently at. The best salespeople in any industry are successful because they understand people better and meet their needs more effectively than anyone else. It’s not about selling them when it’s time for that; it’s about using each interaction as an opportunity to educate in a way that makes your product or service seem like the best option.
Instead of: “I think this is what you should buy.” You say:
“Based on our research and information, here’s a list of what we believe would work best for your needs. Feel free to take it with you and refer to it down the road when the timing is right.”
If they are truly your customer, you know where they are going next and that they’ll be back.
Hack Your Competition.
Good Marketers are always tuned into the competition. They know the products and services offered, the advertising used, and the content produced. They use it to their advantage to save time and use what’s already working. If you want to be successful in sales today, you’ll have to know what your competition is doing too. This may sound asinine and counterintuitive, but it’s the truth!
The best Salespeople I’ve met are always listening for the conversation their prospects are having about them. If they’re selling used trucks (for example), they listen for keywords like “Ford,” “Chevy,” “Ram,” etc. They devour chat groups and online forums looking for mentions of those brands or any other brand that might be relevant to their business. Then they find out everything possible about those products and services using available resources (both within their organization and out).
Understanding the competition also means understanding the content they put out to market. Know the hooks, specials, and promos currently in use by your competition because it’s designed to keep you from speaking to a prospect.
Automate, Delegate, and Outsource To Grow.
Marketers have figured out that the only way to grow consistently is to have proper systems, processes, and people in place. Sales is really no different. Yes, it’s tough to give up control when you’re used to doing everything yourself, but the sooner you hire out or delegate what you can do without, the faster your career will grow. When you add automation in, you’re able to do even more in much less time.
As a salesperson, take time each week (or day) to identify things happening in your market that could be handled more efficiently by someone or something else. Maybe you hire someone to stage homes for open houses or bookkeepers to handle your finances. Other things might include research, client updates, prospecting, and even follow-up communications.
Automating these types of tasks frees up significant amounts of time that can be used for higher-level thinking and interaction with prospects on a regular basis. As this happens regularly over time, it becomes second nature and allows you to focus on being creative about how you’ll handle prospects going forward.
I believe that Salespeople do have a place today and into the future to grow and succeed. Marketing has both opened my eyes and narrowed my focus on different ways that can happen.
To summarize, here are four ways you can get started on becoming a better salesperson today to succeed tomorrow:
1) Truly Study Your Prospects And What They Consume.
2) Stop Selling Your Prospects, Start Educating Them.
2) Hack Your Competition.
3) Automate, Delegate, and Outsource To Grow.