About this video
Why it’s important to understand the evolution of selling
Video length: 4:25
Dave Harries: Grant, you say in the book that certain ways of selling, and things that we sold like products and services and so on, it used to be quite easy because we as the buyers were pretty ignorant. We didn’t really know what was out there so a salesman would come along and tell us what was out there. They would open their suitcase as it were and say, “Here you are. Here’s my products and wares. Which do you want?” That’s all changed. How has that changed and how do we adapt to that change?
Grant Leboff: Yeah. It’s very important, I feel, for sales people to just to understand the evolution of selling, and where we’ve come from, and where we’ve now got to. Sales people were originally told to sell the benefits, not the features. The features being that, you know, the car’s fuel efficient, but the benefit being that it’s more money in your pocket if you spend less on fuel. That was okay in a product-based economy, and you’re right, customers were ignorant. They didn’t have ways of finding out about things, the sales person was often their resource of information. Just telling the customer about the product, literally describing it in terms of the benefits, was educational and, therefore, it influenced the buyers criteria of purchase because they were some kind of blank piece of paper.
As we became more mature economically, we had more choice, that didn’t work anymore. Actually, people couldn’t differentiate by product, so they started to differentiate by service. Services are intangible, and they can be tailored a bit more to your requirements. What one person wants isn’t necessarily what another person wants. Delivery days can be different, terms can be different, all those kinds of things. Sales people then became more consultative, and that was how the solution consultative selling thing happened. What would happen is I would find out what your issues are, what the challenges are, what your concerns are, and tailor my services around that. Again, because it was very difficult for a customer to understand all of those services and how they can be tailored. Just by doing that, I would influence your criteria of purchase.
Today, you’ve got a customer that’s completely savvy, that can go online, watch video, read white papers, see what other people are saying, and really get all that criteria of purchase on their own. Which means when a sales person comes in, if all they do is try to uncover the needs, which was the old fashioned way of describing it, and then respond to those, the buyer’s done that themselves. They’re probably bored out of their brains. They’re probably thinking ‘What’s the sales person doing? I don’t need to do this, I’ve done it myself.’ Therefore, you don’t influence the criteria of purchase like that.
Today, what sales people have to do and the way they add value is to actually disrupt the customer, to give them insight, to give them that ‘Ah-ha’ moment. You know those moments with, “Oh, I haven’t thought of that,” or whatever, because at that moment, when you’ve introduced a new piece of information, you force the buyer to re-evaluate their criteria of purchase. That’s the only way today a sales person can then add value, because once the customer’s back at the criteria of purchase, they’re more malleable. Also by providing that insight, you’ve demonstrated some credibility and earned some trust. It’s something that sales people, in the main, don’t do. They still do the servant consultative thing, rather than more of this disruption insight idea.
Dave Harries: You talk about an evolution, which is very interesting, because I wonder whether there are still times where you would use some of those older fashion techniques. In other words, because evolution is a gradual change, often, in a way, you’ve made me still have to have some of those old skills, too. Or, am I living in the past here?
Grant Leboff: No, I think there’s a point to that. I think the product benefit type idea may have disappeared, but certainly, in terms of consultative selling, there will be times where you go into more of a consultative mode where you get to much more of the granular detail of something. I think the initial point is, if you don’t give them insight, and you don’t disrupt the thinking, and get them back to that criteria of purchase where they’re re-evaluating, if you leave them on the shopping list, ‘Where can you meet my requirements, please?’ Then you’ll never be able to sell anything.
I think if you can get them back to the criteria of purchase, which needs to be insight led, and needs to be disruptive, yes there may be room at that time, sometimes to consult at that point. But, if you just go in as the consultative salesman, you’ll never get them to that point.
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