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Years ago I wrote a feature article for a sales magazine in which I discussed levels of salesmanship. The levels as pictured below were based what type of sales person one might be and how they would interact. I went into detail regarding the various types and what their position and roles were and most importantly that there was more margin and revenue if you called at a higher level and had an implied higher skill set. (If you want a .pdf of the article request it and I will happily send a copy).
I have gone back and reviewed this article and tried to figure out how the levels may have changed over the years and the change has been dramatic. I think the world of the “commercial visitor” type has pretty much disappeared. I am not sure if anyone walks up and down main street prospecting anymore save a few “energy consultants” and “point-of-sale specialists.
There are still “vendors” who respond to purchasing agents hoping to get orders based on product, price and availability; however their margins have dropped significantly.
There are still a fair number of “consultants” who are selling products and services to fill an implied need and in fact, it is my personal belief that the vast majority of salespeople working today fall into this category.
We have learned over time from the marketplace and from all the sales consultants working today that survival in the world of selling will require that you become a “counselor” type. This role has been well described by many Bloggers and commentators and is described more fully in the hot new best selling book “The Challenger Sale” ( http://www.executiveboard.com/challenger/index.html) by Dixson and Adamson.
As part of my analysis of the old article I attempted to find any possible trigger points that may have caused a paradigm shift in these levels. I started with the art and science of selling before there were railroads and cars and telephones, each of which created a shift of sorts. The fax machine slightly changed our approach to selling. The computer had a major impact, first on marketing using huge databases of information and later with laptops which could be used to conduct presentations and generate proposals on the spot.
The advent of the internet however began the major paradigm shift because suddenly the buyer did not have to start at the beginning of the sales cycle and depend totally on the seller to describe the solution. As more and more information was published to the web, the buyer became more independent. It is estimated today that the buyer is nearly 70% of the way through the cycle before the seller ever gets engaged.
If you have followed any of my recent posts, you will know that I am an advocate for sales and marketing folks to become “knowledge brokers” in order to survive. In order to bring value to your prospect and customer today, you need to understand the buyer’s business, his industry, your product or service and how they all relate to each other. You then need to take this body of knowledge and counsel (or challenge) your customer to use it to his or her best advantage.
In my article written years ago, I ended by asking the readers to decide “what level you are”. Today, the question is meaningless, because in reality, if you are not at the counselor level, you probably will not survive the next five years.