By: Don Gray

I hear much discussion about how sales has changed: There is a new paradigm out there. Buyers are different. They have more knowledge. They are smarter. They enter the buying process farther down the selling process. I hear that sales has to be prepared to discuss the prospect’s business. They need to have a good value proposition that differentiates them from their competition. They must say something insightful to catch the attention of the prospect. It’s really different today. So, tell me, what is different from ten, twenty years ago?

I contend that the real role of sales hasn’t changed. What has changed is the tremendous availability of data and information.

Both sides, buyers and sellers, have a vast increase in the available information with which to operate. Another area that has changed is the vast improvement of sales enablement tools. The availability of critical information and enablement tools has changed our ability to improve our focus and message to our prospects. Marketing’s role in building awareness, branding, and finding those interested in talking to us has further improved our ability to reach the interested prospect.

Buyers are using this new information access to become better educated. They are using it to better identify and clarify their problems, challenges, and needs. They are leveraging it to improve their preliminary evaluation of approaches and alternatives to making improvements in their business. Sales representatives have better access to company and contact information. They also have better access to industry trends and their competition. Both sides can use this increased data pool to be better prepared to converse with the other side.

What hasn’t changed is the need for the sales representatives to first clearly understand the value of their own products, solutions, or services. How does what they do actually impact the prospect’s business? Second is the need to professionally communicate with the prospect to gain an understanding of their business and requirements. Third, they need to be able to position the specific results they can deliver for that prospect through their products, solutions, or services.

My contention is that this is what we have been doing since we called it Consultative Selling more than 30 years ago. It has evolved to Solution Selling, or any number of other tags that represent gaining an understanding of your customer’s needs (some people still call it the customer’s pain) and we describe the results (value) we can produce for them.

In this information-abundant and data-rich environment, both sellers and buyers, are better-equipped to meet the challenges of the other. But we, as sellers, still have to execute.

We have to be willing to learn about our prospects. We have to be able to listen. We still have to be able to carry on a constructive, consultative business conversation. To do that, we must train our sales representatives on the value of our solutions and how to listen and learn about our prospects so that we can relate specifically what we can do for them. This hasn’t changed and never will.


About Don Gray

Don Gray is the Founder and President of Sales Engineering Group, a sales performance consultancy. Don has worked with a variety of small, medium, and large B2B organizations to help them develop their distinct value messaging, identify how customers buy their solutions, and skill their sales teams to drive predictable sales results. You can find him leading the monthly Sales & Marketing Shared Interest Groups.