Face to face selling is dead and your only regret is that you didn’t do something about it before lockdown.
There are two aspects to this. You as a seller and you as a sales leader. Don’t you go blaming “the company” or “the customer”. You haven’t responded to the inevitable and all COVID-19 has done has accelerated the inevitable. How haven’t you seen the clues? Face to face selling is dead!
Let’s just think about selling over the last 20 years. Your buyer has been attempting to get rid of you since they met you. Looking for ways to manage “the relationship” virtually. Tenders, e-tenders, e-auctions, web purchasing portals, purchasing groups. You’re a cost. A cost they know they can remove because your traditional ways of selling were not adding value “see you next month Malcolm”.
Another perspective; just think about how you buy.
Did you ever imagine as a consumer that you would be able to purchase almost anything online and in many instances have it delivered the very next day? Well, thank you Jeff, and thank you Amazon. You’ve trained so many people in how to “buy” online and you’ve broken down so many barriers.
Reviews, you believe reviews from people you don’t even know, yet you let them guide your decisions. On hotels, holidays, cars and houses. Each and every one of those purchases is more valuable and more personal. Those reading of a certain age did you ever imagine that you would not need to visit a Travel Agent to trawl through tens of brochures having them keep you waiting why they actually called a broker to check availability.
I know these are consumer purchases and not B2B purchases but, why did you not stop to think that your B2B world would follow. I mean, how can a buyer leave their consumer behaviour at home and behave differently when they come to work. The answer is simple; they can’t, they won’t and even more worryingly for you they don’t.
But this is not “buying”
Ok ok, so you’re still debating the point in your mind and you don’t believe that face to face selling is dead. So before we move on and I give you more I want to put this out there. Your buyer is behaving this way because of how you behave. Well, more specifically how you sell. You’ve allowed your product and service to become a commodity. You bring no insight, you don’t teach your customer anything new and you simply are one of the crowd.
Your buyer has won, they have tamed you and the next step in the evolution in your sales journey is your extinction. So your right this is not buying, but let me tell you something else that might hurt, they are buying from your competition because they are still selling!
There is still a way back for you, interested?
I recently posted on LinkedIn opening up with this “Surely field sales are dead, there will be no need for field B2B sales forces in the new future”. Understandably it received a fair bit of attention, why not take a look and join the conversation
The summary of the responses fell into three schools of thought:
- It’s totally dead and digital sales it’s where it’s at moving forward and fast with the ability to carry out more sales calls at less cost and with shorter cycle times.
- It’s never going away and it will be right back to where it was as selling is a face to face game and buyers value the personal relationship.
- Parts of the sales process will move online with face to face still being important for the higher value and technical sales.
I then asked the question another way in the form of a poll and you’ll see from the image below that there are some further interesting perspectives coming through again you can take a look and join in here (although the poll has closed). In this instance, the responders did not see any situation where face to face selling would go back to pre COVID-19 times. The reality is that the majority of the modern voice to selling and buying sees the selling and buying process accelerating it’s migration online to have entire digital steps in the sales process.
You have to dine again at the top table to join the feast
Now let’s look at your sales approach and sales process. It still sits exclusively in the past, it fits in a time where you kidded yourself that relationships can not be started, nurtured and value-adding online. I understand why I have been selling face to face in a B2B setting for over 30 years. I have had to adapt, you have to adapt. If you don’t your buyer’s habits will have changed and your opportunities to sell will be consigned to the scarps and picking after the feast.
The feast would have been enjoyed by your competition, who have moved the front end of their sales process online, have kept communicating and have continued to add value and teach things that the buyer didn’t know before.
I took the opportunity to grab a conversation with Scott McNicholas a Business Development Manager with BSI as I wanted to chat through just how a “modern seller” sees the future and what advice he might offer you as a more traditional operator. Here’s that chat it lasts around 45 minutes so grab a beverage and enjoy the show.
Where does this take us?
We know that the road ahead is a tough one as the past has been good to you but I also know that you have struggled with the pace of change in the last years. Your reflective moments have you sat there recognising the change I’ve articulated in this article the question you’re asking is “what can I do about it”.
You see that through the article I’ve been adding value, teaching you with insights and showing you a road to an approach you didn’t know you had. I want to leave you another piece of value and if you’re a reader this book cemented my commitment to modernise my sales approach and help others with theirs. This is a book by Graham Hawkins called The Future of the Sales Profession. In this book, Graham takes you through the changes in a buyers journey and slam dunks some home truths but all with a suggestion of how you modernise and survive. I recommend you add this to your library.
And the Columbo Close
“Oh, and one more thing, if there was one thing you needed to make that decision right now to modernise your sales approach what would that be’?
My answer would be to take the online course version of the Plan.Grow.Do. it will support you and set the direction of your modern sales approach, connecting you to more of the buyers who want to BUY from you.