The_Doors_-_Full_CircleYears before sales methodologies and the “industrialisation” of the sales process emerged, good sales people understood that to know your customer, to engage with that customer, to bring value to that customer, to be their trusted advisor, their ‘always on’ expert – all of that – and so much more – was what made for a good business relationship. And with a good business relationship – balanced – win/win business was done.

On our journey to 2013, so much of that got lost. Companies in their never ending desire to automate and their insatiable appetite to ‘scale and expand’ have increasingly focussed on …

….

  • their own sales process, not their customer’s buying process
  • their own product, not their customers needs
  • their own bottom line, not their customer’s success

True – we have delivered platitudes, said the words, acted accordingly, but so very often too little, too late and hardly ever sustained.

Now, with the increasing absence of those trusted advisors (that have for years been replaced with product sales people, systems sales people, consultants, tech experts, process gurus and, and, and), our customers have been silently moving away and working things out for themselves.

57% of the ‘sales cycle’ did not disappear over night, it has been a long slow process of erosion – oh and by the way – 100% of the buying cycle is still in place.

Suddenly sales organizations are waking up to this transformation and businesses are engaging. They are calling it Social Sales.

Now we know we have their attention, because we can see that businesses are trying to work out how to enable social selling in their business processes.

This time it is going to be different. Social Selling is a return to how business was done for thousands of years – before it was industrialized. The openness and transparency that comes with it is going to make it very hard to go back to the old ways. True, we have all kinds of technologies and applications like social listening, sentiment analysis, proximity selling, geo engagement …. the list is endless – and the number of companies involved is an order of magnitude larger. But really they are just tools – and tools are what you need;

  • after you have got your sales people thinking about your customer and how to engage them and bring value , so that you are seen as their trusted advisor and ‘always on’ expert.
  • after you have worked out the processes that are going to turn your company upside down as you truly transition to a customer centric model, and finally destroy the silos
  • then – and only then will you even KNOW what tools and technologies you need to implement – much less test, enable and roll then out.

So – when someone asks you what is ‘Social Sales’. The answer is very clear. The same as it ever was (barring the intermediate 100 years or so while the sales process has been industrialized). It is not new – it is what Sales should be – we just lost our way a bit.

Just as we are discovering that industrializing our food chain was maybe not the best idea or that applying manufacturing processes to our children’s education – was ill conceived (though right for the times), the fact is selling is about relationships and adding value.

At last we can return to the way it should be. I am pumped. How about you ?

13 thoughts on “Finally – Sales Moves Through The Full Circle

  1. Real sales is always about asking the right questions and building the relationships. The formulaic and process oriented selling that so many companies have tried to adopt is not a long-term success strategy outside of pure commodity products.

  2. It’s a struggle to keep the customers in mind but I agree that this is a great time to remind and help businesses to get that right, because the bottom line is how many times “BUY!” got clicked.

  3. I am continually frustrated by companies that try to force me into their buying process. I hope a shift back to social selling happens FAST.

    • Harder question David – I see a lot of recruiting going on for good sales people. The challenge as always is to prove how good you are by your results. The results cam only be improved by embracing the new tools that surround us all – BUT – not to force them, nor to ignore them.

  4. Superb post John, I’m a bit biased given the space I currently work in and my work in social media prior to that. However I can speak from experience that getting back to the basics of engaging the customer in a two way dialogue and forging those relationships will be the foundation of companies of the future and will deliver stellar sales results. Its alarming to see the number of sales organizations that are not yet starting to factor relationships and social connectedness into the core of their approach.

    All the best and happy sales.

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