Sales techniques are constantly evolving. This is partly a function of our understanding of the psychology of sales, which has never been stronger and is likely to continue to advance. It is also a function of changing expectations on both the demand and supply sides of selling. Here are the past, present, and possible future views of three sales techniques that continue to change along with the times.
1. Compromise for the Sale
Past: The customer is always right.
Present: Look for the win-win.
Future: Customization driven benefits for all.
One frequently overlooked aspect of sales techniques is that the successful sales person does not just negotiate on behalf of his or her employer; he or she negotiates for the customer as well. In the past, “the customer is always right” mentality led to thinner margins and occasional losses. A few businesses following this guideline too strictly either had to retrench that position or close their doors.
In today’s marketplace, these are not viable options, and sales techniques have evolved in order to make possible compromise on solutions offering the most benefit for all. But even this technique is involving. As customization becomes a reality in most industries, the next stage in sales techniques will be offering cost effective custom solutions tailored to customers that still allow organizations to realize a profit.
2. Understand Your Customer’s Needs
Past: Mass production creates demand.
Present: Develop products to attract the ideal customer.
Future: Relationship based marketing.
Through most of the twentieth century, mass production was the driving force behind sales. Organizations manufactured products and services meant to appeal to the greatest possible number of people, and the often unthankful task of the sales rep was to sell what was already on the table. Beginning in the 1990s, rapidly changing technology began making customization and data driven understanding of markets plausible, leading to a shift towards developing products with a capability towards limited customization.
Now, even that is changing. In fact, with sales techniques oriented around understanding the needs of the customer, the future is now. As the differentiation theory of marketing gained prominence, organizations began to realize that the key differentiator is often not in the product or service, but in the people and relationships behind it. Organizations and top sales reps are already moving to a relationship based model where products are coming in second to the service offered.
3. Closing the Sale
Past: Aggressively seek the sale, even at the cost of relationships.
Present: Use empathy to drive the prospect into making a deal.
Future: Close based on prospect emotions.
In the early days of sales techniques, aggressive closes such as price matching, give-and-take away, and standing room only were par for the course. These sales techniques have mostly fallen out of favor today as the empathy close is not only more effective for immediate sales, but is also one of the most effective sales techniques to ensure long term customer relationships.
Yet even more than the empathy driven close, emotional closes can clinch a profit for organizations, provided that the sales rep attempting to understand and immediately react to prospect emotions is well equipped to make the right moves at the right time. With employer provided sales training at an all time high and the cost of failure also rising, the emotional close might be the future sales technique of choice.
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Matthew has over 20 years of sales and sales management experience. In addition to being the founder of SalesHub, he is the founder of SalesForce Search, which was #4 on Profit Magazine's Hot 50 list as one of the fastest growing companies in Canada. When he’s not helping companies improve their revenue he trains and competes in half ironman distance triathlons to “relax”.
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