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Selling Changed on March 1st

April 17th, 2020

In the beginning of March, the selling landscape changed Big Time.

For most of the last three or four years, nearly every phase of the economy was humming. Selling was easy.  New economic records were continuously being set, and even sub-par sales reps were occasionally making quota.

Those days are now gone — for the near term, and perhaps for many years. Buying behavior has changed dramatically, so only the strongest (salespeople) will survive. Going forward, here’s what you can expect:

  • Order takers are now Toast.
  • “Average” sales reps will have little to no chance of prospering in the New Normal.
  • Buyers will chew up Convinc-aholics, over-promisors, give-away artists, and demonstrators.  They will delay purchases and negotiate sales-weaklings into price discounts and all sorts of expensive concessions.
  • Although some salespeople may increase their volume of proposals, sales conversion rates, revenues and profit will all drop dramatically. Forecasts will become less and less reliable, frustrating the reps, their managers, and company leadership.
  • Sales cycles will become considerably longer.
  • Under these intense conditions, unskilled salespeople will surrender all control and embark in a frantic race to the bottom.
  • Only hyper-committed, mentally tough, highly consultative salespeople will have any potential to generate business and maintain margins.  Less than 5% of all sales candidates possess these attributes.
  • While the vast majority of sales reps will engage in price wars and bake-offs, ineffectively trying to protect any semblance of margin, the elite 5% will consistently facilitate discovery and challenge the status quo, differentiating themselves and changing buyer’s visions to win more sales and maintain margins.

While much of this may sound catastrophic, this combination of circumstances actually represents massive opportunity for those owners that act swiftly and skillfully.  Let me share a few other facts:

  • Unemployment was hovering between 3 and 4% during most of 2018 and 2019.  During this time, it was extremely difficult and very expensive to woo an elite salesperson away from their company.
  • Consequently, many companies tolerated even more mediocrity than usual on their respective sales teams.
  • Millions of Americans, including plenty of sales reps, have filed for unemployment in the last month. 
  • Finally, many elite salespeople are looking, and looking hard, to find a new home.  
  • These salespeople are highly skilled at hunting and closing, so they won’t be around for long. In other words, you snooze, you lose.
  • Now is an ideal time to eliminate mediocrity, hire superior sales talent, and upgrade the players, effectiveness, culture, and productivity of your Sales Team.

Those 5% of salespeople who have mastered consultative selling possess a unique combination of skills, strengths, and beliefs/mindset (aka: Sales DNA). Some of the most important qualities include questioning & listening skills, business/financial understanding, proper tone, and intense enthusiasm for selling. Elite salespeople also lack a need for approval, effectively control their emotions, are comfortable discussing money, understand how to accumulate vital knowledge before & during the sale, and follow an effective sales process. In the new normal, (and depending upon their specific role) a salesperson may also require the skills to effectively sell remotely, as videocons and similar interactions will likely increase.

Fortunately, there is a highly predictive science to sales force selection and an objective, time-tested Locate, Land & Launch process of attracting, hiring, and on-boarding sales superstars.

There is always both danger and opportunity in every crisis. From a growth and profit perspective, a lack of action will create extreme danger, as only superior sales organizations will survive the next several months and thrive into 2021 and beyond. Forward-thinking leaders will take action now to position themselves to capture market share today and to dominate their competition tomorrow.

Best Wishes for your continued safety, health, and prosperity.


Copyright © Joe Zente 2020. All Rights Reserved.