Though still emerging, the concept of “sales without selling” has attained a precedent that no variation of the American standard can claim: the American sales model has not been merely revised, but rather replaced with non-sales-oriented, system-based models. The replacement of the American standard model with more accommodating, more effective sales methodologies is proving favorable to all—business owners, salespeople, and their buyers.
The standard American sales model is used by most businesses without thought. Variations of the model arise periodically and are promoted through webinars, workshops, sales courses, and books about sales from self-proclaimed sales experts. The standard model is replete with “opening” and “closing” techniques, and concepts such as the “sales funnel” and the notion of “best practices,” from a variation of the model. The vernacular of the model has provided salespeople, business owners, and sales managers with a common language for discussing the occupation of selling, though there are now vastly superior, albeit less commonplace, sales models available. This comfortable familiarity with the standard sales model is perpetuating a cycle that now costs business owners and salespeople the sales it once helped secure.
In recent years, especially since the recent downturn in the U.S. economy, business owners have an increased interest in creating and promoting competitive divergence. Competitive divergence is intended to increase a company’s desirability by establishing greater dissociation between the company and its competition. Competitive divergence has come to be synonymous with competitive advantage. As business owners demanded more creative solutions for further differentiating themselves and enhancing their competitive advantage in the marketplace, a transformation in sales practices began to occur.
A New Model
Modern sales methods now regard cold-calling, opening, and closing techniques as archaic, and its constructs (such as the sales funnel) as inferior to the considerably more sophisticated and accurate constructs that newer sales methods use for understanding and explaining sales developments. As much as the old standard was rooted in sales techniques, the new standard is founded on avoiding overt and traditional sales practices. Though still emerging, the concept of “sales without selling” has attained a precedent that no variation of the American standard can claim: the American sales model has not been merely revised, but rather replaced with non-sales-oriented, system-based models. The replacement of the American standard model with more accommodating, more effective sales methodologies is proving favorable to all—business owners, salespeople, and their buyers.
Selling in Today’s World
In this new sales paradigm, it is necessary to redefine the roles of the seller and his or her perception of buyers. More than ever before, the salesperson’s biggest hindrance in growing sales is the fact that he is a salesperson. Buyers suspect salespeople of being motivated by self-serving interests. Ameliorating this dynamic is doubly challenging since salespeople often suspect buyers of using them in order to price check another vendor. Of course, we cannot force change onto a buyer. You can, however, change your attitude about buyers. Seeing buyers as cold, unapproachable obstacles between you and sales is not helpful to your objective as a salesperson. Rather, sympathize with buyers. Understand buyers as having become calloused by encountering many self-serving salespeople over the years. Your challenge now is to show yourself as one who has inspiring ideas and knowledge that buyers will find valuable. A non-sales approach enables a new dynamic to develop between the buyer and seller—a dynamic that is based on mutual respect.
Salespeople Must Present Something of Value
Once salespeople stop trying to sell, they face the question of who they are to a buyer. The answer resides in a paradox, and perhaps greater competitive divergence. Salespeople must present or represent something of value to the buyer beyond the products and service they wish to sell. This offering is not a bribe and must be submitted without concern for reciprocation. As a salesperson, you will sell more once you or the buyers discover how to be a resource superior to your competition. Sales will be the natural result of your buyer maintaining you as a resource. I develop several ways for my clients to be perceived as valuable assets to their prospective clients, and teach salespeople how to be seen as something other than a salesperson. If you can achieve this, you’ll be on your way to gaining sales without selling.
There are several alternatives to not selling that effectively sell, and they include educating, servicing, and sharing. Taking a non-sales approach with my prospective clients has produced my greatest sales successes, and can significantly help improve the sales of salespeople who’ve been using the former standard.
Effectively using non-sales approaches requires developing new skills and a cognitive shift in thinking, which include:
1. Sales techniques do not produce sales, assets produce sales
2. “Benefit selling” is less effective than the related-story effect for the purpose of inspiring buyers
3. “Closing” sales is not a matter of technique, but a matter of creating value through associative learning, which sells your products and services
4. Your disinterestedness (not un-interestedness) in selling can inspire your potential buyers
Former Standard Sales Model Is Less Effective
In the final analysis, the former standard sales model is a less effective model for selling in today’s world. The former model of opening and closing techniques, cold-calling, and sales funnels contributes to the damage done to buyer/seller relationships. As long as buyers are leery of salespeople, the salesperson is his/her own toughest obstacle. A new sales model is gaining prominence and helping companies compete more effectively, especially when vying for new business. Selling successfully and consistently requires salespeople to be recognized by buyers as being something other than a salesperson, which requires salespeople to learn how to achieve sales without selling.
About the author
Steve Young is a nationally respected, “outside the box” sales expert who is President…