Saturday, March 6, 2010

Are Salespeople Still Needed?

This question was asked to me recently in an interview, "with the dominance of the internet is the salesperson even needed anymore?" It might surprise you to hear my answer. Understand I have worked as a 'sales expert' for over twenty years, rewritten sales processes for entire industries, licensed customized sales processes for organizations, and written three books on selling.

My answer; I absolutely agree that the average sales person is no longer needed, valued and can even be a deterrent to the customer experience!

Who needs a sales person, if that's what you call him, that doesn't know the product, how it works, what makes it valuable and cannot justify the cost? Who needs someone that doesn't know how their own product works or how it compares to other similar products.

We have all met the real estate agent that doesn't know the comps in the neighbor yet believes every house they showed you was a great deal. Or the car salesman that didn't know the price, the interest rates or what your trade-in was worth.

How about the sales people huddled in the electronics store that do not even bother to greet you. With the influence of free information everywhere, websites, comparison information, virtual tours, social networking and the likes, really who needs the everyday-average sales person?

Today I can order a dozen pairs of shoes from Zappo's, have them shipped to my home, try them on at my leisure and ship them all back if I don't like them. So how much will Nordstrom's, Barney's, Macy's and the like have to improve their processes and the customer experience to compete. Or is the salesman dead and companies should just remove sales people from the process and let customers click and pick leaving the company to ship their inventories for free both ways and wait for a customer decision.

That scenario will is not realistic for most industries like real estate, autos, appliances, mortgages, computers, phone plans, jewelry, furniture stores, fund raisers, etc. The internet is the point of at which consumers can gain information and start the buying process.

For instance my wife is interested in getting a new car so our first step was to access the net and use the manufacturer's beautiful multi-million dollar websites to be introduced to different models. These sites now allow me to build out and even price out what I think we are interested in. But they still can not help me make a decision. After just 15 minutes of browsing choices I found myself frustrated. What is the difference between the pearl black and the cobalt black, the light and dark interior, do I really need the camera in the back, how do I input information into the navigation system, and how does this compare to other makes and models?

At this point I will need a professional sales person to assist me in judging, evaluating, and helping me make a value justification so we can make a decision and purchase. An average sales person is NOT needed, not WANTED and not VALUED by anyone, especially today! For a sales person to be valued today the must be

1) empowered to provide information.
2) transparent and trusted.
3) able to build a value justification.
4) trained to deliver a world class experience.

Sales people have much more to deal with than ever before with so many more products available, increased competition, a stressed out public, customers that have less time, are more cynical, less trusting, better informed and more sensitive about how they spend their money.

Everything that is average in our society ceases to exist and will be replaced with things that are more valuable.

The sales person that doesn't know his product, unable to answer questions, can't justify value, and unable to make sense of price and terms is no longer needed and will not be tolerated.

Competition, new products and the influence of the net will make sure of that. That being said, at no time in my life has it been more important for a company to train, educate and prepare sales people to provide a consistent, world class customer 21st century experience in order to make the most of every sales opportunity.


Your Sales Mentor's Opinion.

I mean this is plain and simple. We as salespeople give more value because we act as co-buyers. We understand our customer's needs and wants by asking them valuable questions, and through that we are able to help them find the best the product to solve their different concerns.

The importance in this lesson is that, in this very competitive era of marketing trends, we must be fully equipped with the knowledge on the features and benefits of our products. In that way we give more value, rather than giving the impression that we are just after a sale.

Remember this: If you do not understand what your product can do for a prospect and how it improves his life then quit and do something else.

Now go and add more value to the meaning of the word - "salesperson".

Your Sales Mentor TM


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