This note isn’t like a lot of my Sunday notes. The idea here is super important, but it’s a little inside baseball. Because the idea is so important, I want you to read and think about the questions at the end, regardless of your role, and regardless of the business you are in.
We used to teach salespeople to close. Mostly we taught them the final close, to ask for the order. That was core, fundamental training because it was what was necessary to grow sales. But the world evolved, and sales evolved with it.
As more competitive offerings were available, it became important to differentiate your offering. Salespeople were taught to ask questions, particularly open-ended and close-ended questions. A lot of this was still about closing, but it added another layer. Salespeople were also taught to talk about features and benefits, to show their customers why they needed whatever it was they sold.
As sales became more and more complex and deals grew larger, salespeople were taught to negotiate. As differing levels of value were being created, the need to capture different amounts of value became more important. Salespeople were taught to negotiate. The world evolved more, and sales tried to evolve with it.
Large sales organizations discovered that they needed a sales process. Salespeople were taught and trained to follow a process that moved them from target to close (even if most sales organizations still aren’t very good at following a process).
Leaping forward a bit, now comes insight-based selling. It’s a further evolution because it is what is useful now.
I could write more here, and I could provide far more detail. But these four simple paragraphs and the last two sentences do enough for me to explain to you what has gone wrong in the world of sales and selling. The fundamental skills described above haven’t been integrated. Instead, they have been used to replace what has gone before them. Follow me here.
We taught closing when it was most important, but the need for commitment gaining hasn’t disappeared (in fact, it is now more critical as more commitments are necessary). We taught good questioning methodologies, and in doing so began to loosen our grip on closing. But the need to ask good questions is still necessary. Then we moved on to negotiating and capturing value, focusing less and less on what came before. Is there any question that negotiating skills are still paramount? We’ve marched through consultative, strategic, value-based, customer-centric, and dozens and dozens of other models.
What if these skills and models don’t replace each other? What if we were integrating these models, building a more whole approach? What if the models were not competing but complementing each other?
You need to be able to close. You need to be able to speak to your product or service’s features, benefits, and advantages. You need to be able to diagnose, differentiate, and negotiate. You need to be consultative, strategic, value-based, customer-centric, follow a process, and share your insight. Evolution moves forward by integrating, organizing, and increasing complexity. It requires that you do the same.
What about you? How are you evolving? What skills do you need now? What older skills do you still need to keep and integrate? What might you have mistakenly abandoned and need to reclaim?