What is the job of a sales person? Some think it’s about providing solutions. Certainly, serving customers is part of it. I’d like to offer a different definition. I believe the job of a seller is to help a buyer be Excellent.
Until now, we’ve thought that we could help buyers achieve Excellence through a product purchase. But since we actually close such a small percentage of our sales, and spend so much time with a prospect/buyer that is not in direct service to a solution placement, I’d like to think that we have a broader role.
As sellers, we know how to sell. But, as I’ve said so many, many times, buyers have a lotta work to do before they get to the point of being ready to buy: they have to manage their entire internal system of behind-the-scenes issues – the people, policies, rules, relationships, vendors, partners – and make sure that all of the appropriate buy-in is enlisted. Without this happening, there will be no purchase. As I write about in detail in my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it without going through a change management exercise internally, buyers can’t risk making a purchase that might upset the status quo. They would rather maintain what they’ve got rather than seek the Excellence that is possible, if the downside is a system that faces chaos or disruption.
Enter the new sales person. The new sales person recognizes that there are two disparate sets of activities that buyers must manage: 1. get interal buy-in from the appropriate systemic elements; 2. choose an acceptable solution/vendor. The new sales person will have the tools of decision facilitation and enter the conversation as a neutral navigator – a Buying Facilitator, if you will – with a goal to facilitate the internal change and choice issues, and no bias around when, or how, to place a solution. Indeed this initial phase will entail different listening and questioning skills and different expectations.
With a seller supporting this part of their decision making, the buyer will learn to quickly discover and enlist the entire Buying Decision Team, discover people issues and old vendor problems, and create a route through systemic change. Buyers have to do change management anyway, and the time it takes them to do that is the length of the sales cycle. Because once they get buy-in and a route forward, then (and only then) they need to choose a supplier and a solution.
Imagine if we had a skill set that enabled us to actually help buyers navigate through their internal change management issues so they could figure out how to achieve Excellence. Then we’d be able to fulfill the real job of sales: to create excellence.