I read an article over the weekend describing a sales methodology, called “Buying Facilitation“, and going all the way back to Dale Carnegie as the root of the approach.
What struck me is that the 1980’s was quoted as the era of the introduction of “Consultative Selling”…
Its true that there was a boom in gurus and programs based upon the approach of asking questions instead of “pitching”. However, the approach has been around literally forever.
The original sales gurus all got started in the very early 1900’s, when the industrial economy was exploding. There were more and more businesses making more and more stuff and it all needed to be sold.
W. Clement Stone, Og Mandino and Dale Carnegie were all born within 15 or 20 years of each other at the turn of the century (1900…). Wikipedia has a really cool quote engine that gives you a good take on each “master’s” wisdom – click these links to read – W. Clement Stone
If you read the works of these masters, you see that their principals were founded in religion. In fact, when I read Og Mandino’s “The Greatest Salesman in the World” for the first time, it struck me as more spiritual than business related.
I wasn’t there but, it seems to me that these guys took good old fashioned Christian ethics and repackaged them for business people.
There is a parallel between industrial and technological growth and increasingly secular societal standards. The 80’s were another period of economic growth and another opportunity for a new pack of gurus to break into the market with “new approaches”. David Sandler, etc. are less “values” based and more mechanically oriented than Clement, Og and Dale but, the mechanics are the same.
So I wonder, when will this cycle repeat itself for the Web 2.0 world?
We’re driving customers to our web sites, offering them rich content for free, letting them find their own solutions and generally trying to make it easy for them to get what they want without having to talk with a sales rep. How does “Do unto others” work on a web page?
Well, one could argue that the plethora of free online content is a step in this direction. Information that used to have a cost, in either dollars or time invested, is no longer costly. So, are we being charitable by making it so? Well, not exactly. We’re doing it because there’s something in it for us. But, so were Og and Dale, etc. They just found that doing the right thing was in their own best interest.
Maybe one answer is that focusing on the customers needs is even more valuable and important in a world where there is less human to human contact during the process. So, if your sales team still has to get on the phone or meet with clients to close the deal, they should recognize that your customers find that experience increasingly unique.
Imagine yourself as the kind hearted pilgrim that comes across a lost and thirsty traveler and offers him the last of his water. Your competition is focusing more and more time and money on the online experience, just as you are. Your customers know it.
Put them on a pedestal and help them any way you can. That will be such a rare experience that they’ll be compelled to do business with you. And its just good karma anyway.