Redefining Sales: Why Conventional Methods Don’t Work in Today’s Business Environment

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Sellers have the mistaken belief that by presenting, pitching, and positioning their product effectively, by being nice-nice-nice, and by showing ‘care’ and ‘concern’ for ‘needs’, a buyer will buy.

Oh, if it were so simple.

To begin thinking about why our current model of sales is inappropriate for our increasingly-complex times, I would like to offer my personal definition of sales as a point of reference.

Sales: the actions and transactions that lead to the placement of product or service into a buyer’s hands for money, through the use of relationship, marketing, packaging/branding, presentation, promotion, needs-analysis, manipulation, or persistence.

In other words, potentially there’s a whole lotta surprises involved. Let’s see if we can find some of the challenges and turn them into possibilities.

I recently trained a very professional, successful group of sales people. While doing my program preparation, I was told of their sales process:

1. make a cold call to introduce themselves and their company (a very prestigious, branded, company with high visibility), with the intent of getting a face-to-face appointment;

2. sit down with the 20% of prospects who agree to the appointment;

3. introduce their company/product line, then do a ‘needs analysis’ to get an ‘understanding’ of the client’s needs;

4. leave with an agreement to talk frequently over the next months in case there is a need;

5. tag the prospect to call once a month, send articles to, or invite to lectures, etc. for months/years into the future;

6. assume that when/if the prospect has a need, that they will be well positioned to get the contract.

Now, given the thousands of sellers I’ve trained, I find this to be a somewhat typical behavior pattern. Find a prospect, get in front of them, try to assess needs to make a case for how the product would fit, follow up and follow up and follow up til the sale is made. IF the sale is made.

Given what I know is possible by using Buying Facilitation, and from the thousands of stories I’ve heard from people I’ve trained, I can honestly say the process can be far more efficient, with dramatically different – and more ethical, more long term, and more lucrative – results.


Let’s go through that line by line and understand the implications of the above behaviors:

1. COLD CALL/FACE TO FACE MEETING: the group above is lucky they are branded. Most sales calls don’t get through; sellers requesting a face-to-face are rejected due to 1. an annoyance factor, and 2. a non-recognition of need:

  • Buyers with acknowledged needs are already researching them – not sitting and waiting for a sales person on a cold call to show up.
  • Buyers with no recognizable needs won’t spend an hour of precious time with an unfamiliar sales person.
  • Buyers with ongoing needs are happy to meet with unknown sellers – but will then use price as a decision factor because they experience vendors as interchangeable. What the hell! Might as well have a new potential vendor running around for a year just in case you need someone cheap.

    Oh – and let’s not forget the push for a face-to-face meeting with a prospect: that preference comes from Dale Carnegie (and 35 years ago a seller’s ability to connect by phone/email/plane was rather, um, limited). Don’t use your body for a prospecting tool when you can use Facilitative Questions over the phone to qualify appropriately (works even with a multi million dollar sale when used properly). Then you can visit just those people ready to buy. Read the archived newsletter on how to effectively use the telephone as an important business tool: http://www.newsalesparadigm.com/news_32.html

    2. GET 20% TO AGREE TO MEETING: a much higher percentage of buyers than 20% might need a new vendor. But they are living with hectic workloads, and can’t always see the entire landscape of their current situation and potential needs.

    Also there might indeed be many live prospects here who would not agree to see an unknown sales person who calls on a cold (or even warm) call.

    This process makes the sale a double sale: one sale for an appointment, one sale for a product. It’s a hard way to go. Not to mention the seller is using a very rigid set of selling patterns, thereby eliminating all those who might buy if a different approach were used. Sellers seem to believe that buyers are stupid if they say ‘no’ and don’t entertain the notion that a buyer might be just saying ‘no’ to them, specifically.

    3. NEEDS ANALYSIS: a needs analysis??? About what? About the undefined potential problem? If they already had a recognizable problem they would have the wheels in motion to solve it. And, do you think a prospect would give the unknown sales person the complete data on a ‘need’? Or, even more interesting, that a strange seller would meet a strange prospect and ‘understand’ what’s going on without comprehending the historic, unique system – and all of the accompanying implications – the prospect lives within? That attempting to exhibit ‘care’ is going to cinch a deal? Please.

    Even the buyer doesn’t thoroughly understand the full range of complex, interdependent, internal issues. Sure, the seller might recognize something wrong that, on the surface, might seemingly be corrected by his product. But this is a pipe dream: the seller doesn’t know a fraction of the whole fact pattern here.

    4. AGREEMENT TO STAY CONNECTED: ok. So the seller promises to call. And call. And call. And call. And then there is always a reason they lose the sale to someone else. Amazing that sales people keep doing this! I have heard hundreds of sales people say, ‘I followed up that guy for YEARS till he gave me a sale!’ That’s my definition of arrogance (OK. My definition of ‘crazy’ also). That’s all the seller had to do with his/her time? How many prospects would have become clients during those years if the seller was spending his/her time discovering true clients. [NOTE: I believe we should be discovering clients, not creating them.]

    5. CALL REGULARLY: ditto.

    6. BE POSITIONED TO CLOSE SALE: Good luck. And just how many other sales people are doing the same thing with that prospect, hm? One of my Big Five – uh, Big Four – clients believed that if they showed up with their Rolex’s and their custom shirts and Prada shoes, that they would appear confident, professional, and smart. Unfortunately, Prada and Rolex sell to the other firms. Everyone shows up looking – and probably sounding – like that for goodness sakes! And then, how does the seller differentiate herself??


    The job of sales – as we currently understand it – has really become obsolete. Truly. It can be so much more scientific, and so so so much easier, than the placement/product models we’ve used for decades (even with the more modern bells and whistles, the basic model is the same).

    I contend that there is (in a preponderance of cases) no direct correlation between the current act of selling and the buyer’s decision to purchase: I think sellers have fooled themselves for millennia by thinking that something they’ve done or said has led directly to a sale.

    The jobs of a current seller include:

  • finding a prospect to speak with (based on a whole set of relationship, bias, fear, and time issues);
  • gathering data to understand a buyer’s needs (which is a specious activity as per previous discussion);
  • offering product information as appropriate (based on assumed need);
  • designing an appropriate solution (based on an assumed understanding of a partial view of the prospect’s environment).
  • The seller then ‘waits around’ somewhere, hovering, for the sale to close while the buyer walks away to do… to do WHAT? Where do they GO? They kinda disappear SOMEWHERE. WHERE?? What are they DOING? They have a need, the seller has the solution, so WHY AREN’T THEY BUYING?

    And when the buyer finally shows up again – WHEN and IF – the seller seems to think it was because s/he caused it to happen. I don’t believe that there is a direct correlation, given the sale process in use today.


    We all know that buyers no longer need sellers to give them information. With information and prices relatively transparent world wide, buyers need something much more fundamental: they need help deciding what to do with the information that exists, and in managing their increasingly confusing array of internal issues. Toward that end, we actually need to change the belief system that sellers work from. I’m suggesting an entirely new definition of sales.

    A purchase occurs only when a buyer learns how to recognize, define, and manage all of the decision variables that need to be contended with before they do anything different than continue with their status quo. If these variables don’t get managed, a prospect’s environment faces chaos if they bring in a new product or vendor. Considerations include: people, initiatives, relationships, budgets, time factors, six sigma – much, much more than a seller (whose knowledge base is limited to the surrounding environment their product sits within) can ever know as an outsider.

    And the time it takes buyers to recognize and manage their own internal variables, and come up with their own answers, is the length of the sales cycle.

    Once buyers manage all the variables and know what their answers must include, they will know precisely how to design a solution that will incorporate everything necessary that will lead to an ethical, moral and congruent solution.

    Just because they have a problem that the seller’s product can resolve DOES NOT MEAN THEY ARE READY, WILLING, OR ABLE TO BUY IT!


    I have an old story that I’ve told millions of times, so those who have read any of my books will know the story. But for the newbies, it’s worth retelling.

    I was asked by a major software/hardware company to attempt to persuade this one particular Mom-Pop store to accept a server to beta test for them. They had already said ‘no’ twice to two sales people, even after they received high quality marketing material and a pitch. It was being given away for free – and yet the store didn’t want it.

    I called, and the conversation went like this:

    SDM: How is your server currently supporting your needs?

    Prospect: Oh… it’s ok.

    SDM: What’s stopping you from getting a system that’s better than OK?

    Prospect: Dad.

    SDM: Um, right. Dad. What does that mean???

    Prospect: We’re a Mom and Pop shop. Dad’s the Pop. He’s been around for 40 years. He manages all of the technology. He’s retiring in 2 years.

    An efficient server was not their main criteria! Make no mistake: there is a Dad in every, single, buying environment – some systemic issue that has created and maintains the status quo and without which they wouldn’t have a problem. But until or unless that Dad factor gets managed, the buyer will not make a buying decision.

    And all the need in the world will not change that.

    By the way, the rest of the conversation went like this:

    SDM: What would Dad need to know or consider to be willing to consider accepting a new server before he retires?

    Prospect: Gosh – I don’t know. Let’s ask him. Probably to talk with someone who’s using it to see how easy it is to learn to operate.

    The previous sellers asked questions about the number of users (15 users on a 5 person server), the age of the old equipment (5 years – way too old), the future needs (more people, an even slower system)… yup. Obviously they need a new server – so what’s the problem! Yet another stupid customer.

    Because the ‘consultative questions’ that sellers tend to use have a strong tendency to focus on areas that the seller can provide solutions for, the sales process itself becomes the impediment to sales: what is a buyer to do but object, or cease contact, when they are being pushed to do something they 1. don’t think they need to do, 2. don’t see a need to do NOW, or 3. need to manage in order to avoid ruffling feathers.


    There is a way to change the equation and the outcome. Here is an unabashed, forthright, shameless pitch: Buying Facilitation will mitigate most of the above problems. And make sales simple. It’s only hard these days because we’re using an old model for new problems. What else are we using that is at least 60 years old??

    1. Buying Facilitation doesn’t sell; it uses a unique Facilitative Questioning system that gives buyers new tools to discern all of the issues they need to consider before they would even think about making a change (to add something or to change vendors). This capability alone will halve the sales cycle, and it will put you on the buyer’s side of the equation as a true consultant. Not to mention it will teach seemingly complacent non-prospects how to have new eyes about possible needs.

    2. Buying Facilitation doesn’t ask information gathering questions, do needs-analysis, or do consultative sales; it assumes buyers inherently have a more complete understanding of their environment than the seller would ever have, and offers a way to lead them through their own needs analysis. This capability will give the seller the job of a true consultant, and will differentiate him/her from the competition.

    3. Buying Facilitation doesn’t get objections; Facilitative Questions lead the buyers through their own systems variables, so they can recognize their own issues, and develop their own solutions. Because there is true consulting and no pitch or push, there is nothing to object to.

    4. Buying Facilitation doesn’t offer a solution; it teaches the buyer how to define their own solution to include all systems issues that need to be included, and then just supplies the solution the buyer defines.

    Today’s business environments are much more complex than those of even 4 years ago. Buyers don’t need sellers to sell products, and they certainly have many internal, unique, and idiosyncratic business issues to address that effect a large number of people and initiatives. Help them make sense of their world; help them define a way forward that manages all of the unique elements that define their problem. Use the job of sales as a true Trusted Advisor and consultant. To do this, all you have to do is stop selling.

    Should you wish to learn more about this, go to www.buyingfacilitation.com and purchase my ebook Buying Facilitation: the new way to sell that expands and influences decisions


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