Innovation in sales was the topic during this weeks Sales Smack event. The question was; “Does sales need innovation?” It was suggested that we have been doing the same old things for the past 50+ years and little has changed.
I look at sales in 3 stages; access, influence and delivery. I think there has been a fair amount of innovation in the first and last stages. With the advent of tools, like social media, CRM, and the productivity gains from the internet, computing etc., there has been tremendous innovation in gaining access to prospects and decision makers as well as improving our delivery capabilities. Where I struggled with innovation in sales was in the meat of sales; the influence.
Influence is where sales happens. The influence stage is where we “influence” the buyers decision. Those who are best at influencing the buyer win.
I didn’t see any innovation in this area. To me, the methods hadn’t changed in a long time. Influence had always been, build the relationship, solve problems, understand the issues etc. To me, it’s always been an information, problem solving game. That is until Sales Smack.
During Sales Smack Jill Konrath and S. Anthony Iannarino threw out a few things that got my attention. Jill said, sales has lacked a culture of “thinking” and organizations who provide training around thinking are seeing results. Anthony suggested it’s no longer OK to “pitch” (which I have always agreed with) but sales people have to be diverse in their expertise. Beyond being sales people they have to be engineers, CEO’s, finance people, marketers etc. To be a great sales person your skills have to be far more expansive than just being a magnanimous, articulate, jovial personality.
I think they are on to something. Sales Smack has altered my opinion a little. Innovation in the influence stage of selling needs to target the behaviors of the sales people. Innovation in the influence stage is going to come from the psychology of buying habits and decision making coupled with training to instill new selling behaviors in sales people.
Critical thinking skills and broad skill enhancements are for sure two ways sales is innovating. Organizations that leverage these innovative approaches in their organization through training will have a competitive advantage.
I struggled to see where sales has been innovating, especially in the influence stage. Sales Smack gave me a smack and it’s a little more clear. Now, I’d like to see more.
Do you see more innovation in sales?
Check out the entire discussion, folks were throwing down some good stuff: