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If prostitution is purported to be the world’s oldest profession, then surely sales must be the second oldest recognized; and since a marketing blog certainly isn’t the correct place to talk about the oldest profession in recorded history, it only makes sense to weigh in on how dramatically the second oldest has changed in recent times.

According to Wikipedia “Selling is offering to exchange an item of value for a different item. The original item of value being offered may be either tangible or intangible. The second item, usually money, is most often seen by the seller as being of equal or greater value than that being offered for sale.

Hmmm, so by that definition perhaps “sales” is the oldest profession!  Either way, the “art of selling” has been written about in thousands (if not millions) of books, whitepapers and blogs, so I wouldn’t want to presume to add any value to that story.  I would observe though a marked change in what works and what doesn’t in today’s over communicated, globally flat, technically literate, highly competitive marketplace.

For decades, the most tried and true method of selling required little more than tenacity, an adequate contact list and time in order to:

  • Make cold calls: making anywhere from 20 to 100 calls per day pulled from some source list, hoping for at least 10% connections in order to uncover a prospect which can be qualified
  • Qualify leads: getting the prospect to uncover budget, authority, need and timeframe as it pertains to the specific value proposition you deem as differentiating for your organization
  • Perform sales demos: once you found a qualified prospect then specific demos to handle objections and set desired return on investment expectations will seal the deal

But it appears that the age of “The Boiler Room” and “Glengarry Glen Ross” is all but dead if not dying rapidly.  I’ve had more conversations in the last 18 months than I can count all with CEOs and vice presidents of sales wondering why this model no longer works.  We’ve discussed before how over 60% of the sales process now occurs via searching the web before a sales rep is ever involved.  This has given rise to a new sales model that requires:

  • Social networks: Knowing where your ideal prospects gather to converse, share information, gain knowledge and uncover opportunities is not enough.  You will also need to actively participate in those conversations in order to gain trust and set uncover the education requirements specific to your value proposition
  • Education: Once you know the education requirements, you can fill in the necessary gaps that lead your prospect to the appropriate “need to have” milestones necessary to get your prospect to begin an active sales engagement
  • Engagement: continue the “conversation” started in the social networks as you progress to more classic sales steps for objective handling and proposal negotiations

So, please stop harassing your CMO and Inside Sales Team with the never-ending tasks of more leads, more calls and more demos.  Instead I would invite you to incent your team to become very active in social networks appropriate for your target prospects and emphasize education and value over features and benefits.