Coronavirus and the Evolution of Sales
by Tim Healy
The Evolution of Sales has taken us from the Snake Oil Salesmen of the 1800’s to the Solution-based selling of the 21st Century. The world of sales has no doubt seen some pretty interesting changes in the last 200 years. Today, Covid-19 is ushering in the next evolution to the world of sales. Let’s take a moment and examine how we got here.
Milestones in the Evolution of Sales
As early as 1932 Dr. Henry Link wrote “The New Psychology of Selling and Advertising”. Dr. Link’s book investigated the intricacies of consumer behavior, sales techniques, and effective advertising.
In 1936, Dale Carnegie published “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” which went on to sell over 30 million copies. Carnegie’s book introduced the Era of Relationship Selling.
In the 1950s, the Formula Model AIDA was born. AIDA stands for – Attention Interest Desire Action. Essentially you want to grab the Attention of your prospect, create Interest which should lead to Desire to Buy and move them to take Action. You might remember the classic sales meeting scene in Glengarry Glen Ross when Alex Baldwin reminded a helpless bunch of sales professionals about the benefits of AIDA.
Xerox developed solution selling in the 1960s. Solution selling became so hugely popular that they sold it to other corporations under Xerox Learning Systems. One of the tenets to Xerox’s methodology is that while people don’t like to be sold things, they do like to buy. The Xerox system had several spinoffs, including Solution Selling, SPIN Selling, and Value Selling which are all still quite popular today.
Then came “The Challenger Sale” in 2011. The author’s premise was that the Internet and digital marketing has shifted how buyers buy. Relationship selling is no longer the best path to success.
The Evolution of Sales has taken us on a journey from Snake Oil Sales to psychology selling, relationship and solution-based selling to one where the Internet and digital marketing has ultimately shifted the sales person’s role in the sale.
Coronavirus: The Next Evolution in Sales
Now for the next evolution in sales. Covid-19. The pandemic has ushered in the next radical change to the world of selling. Just overnight, B2B sales professionals could no longer knock on doors or hold face-to-face meetings. Networking over a cup of coffee or attending lunch at your local Chamber of Commerce have become a thing of the past.
Sales professionals everywhere who made their living going belly-to-belly were left at a standstill. They now stand shell shocked at the prospect of not being able to do business face-to-face.
The Social Distancing Challenge
Social Distancing poses an interesting twist to sales professionals of all generations. Those who are resistant to video meetings are faced with a new reality. Learn Zoom fast or die. Overnight, Zoom meetings became standard operating procedure.
Younger selling professionals who have always been comfortable with technology likely have no problem adapting to the change. Now all sales professionals are going to have to prospect, qualify, present, and close on video.
Since I can’t predict when we get back to normal, I would feel comfortable saying that for the near future, normal isn’t going to be so normal. Companies will most likely be careful before they let sales people in for meetings that are deemed non-essential. So, you will have to alter your sales process. Your ability to prospect over the phone and conduct a great video-meeting will become your new reality.
Embracing the Suck
As someone who enjoyed lunches and client visits on a daily basis – this SUCKS! Stopping in to visit a client with a pastry box was one of my signature moves. I know that going to lunch has always been a great way for countless sales professionals to connect with prospects and clients.
I like many of you enjoyed the energy you get when you are face-to-face with another human. We are social beings after all. Covid-19 has changed selling for ALL of us. And it did it with no warning. That really sucks!
But it’s time to embrace the SUCK.
Now is the time to be comfortable being uncomfortable. We need to embrace empathy. Embrace listening. Embrace video. Embrace cold calling – again. Embrace creating a better social media platform.
By embracing the suck, there will be great reward for all selling professionals as we will sharpen old skills while developing new ones.
While the way we sell will change, some things will never change. Companies need to sell and consumers need to buy.