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Old School Selling (Peddler) vs. New School Selling (Trusted Advisor)

18 Říjen 2010 Žádný komentář

by Tom "Bald Dog" Varjan

Dedicated to some 95% of technology consulting firms and others who compromise their earning potentials by using dedicated salespeople to sell their services.

Regardless of how vehemently certain professionals (for instance, lawyers and doctors) object to their anything at all, it is not too hard to imagine that without selling, they would starve to death. The process in which we receive money in return for something is a selling process. We have to sell something in order for someone to buy from us, so we can receive money.

But how we sell what we sell can make a huge difference. And since clients are becoming more and more sophisticated than they have ever been before, then we’d better adjust our approach to this new level of sophistication.

So let’s take some time to discover the differences between the traditional manipulative peddler-type old school selling and a new school of selling.

The basic problem is that traditional sales professional, whom we can legitimately call peddlers, spend some 70% of their time hunting and hounding (euphemistically called prospecting) for new clients, chasing them and then intimidating them into buying something. This may sound harsh, but when you take a look at the traditional selling model, then you see what I mean.

The Old School – Peddler – Selling Model

The old, traditional sales method is based on salespeople’s harassing prospects in the forms of cold calling, tearing down doors battling gatekeepers and other fiendish methods. It is intimidating for prospects and humiliating and demoralizing for salespeople.

Hey, have you ever thought about why traditional salespeople need such a high dosage of motivation? I guess they need some help to get through another day of lying and manipulation in pursuit of another sale.

In the traditional model, salespeople spend some 70% of their time chasing – mostly unqualified – prospects, and the other 30% is shared among real selling, doing payable work, sales meetings, administrative work, research and all sorts of preparatory bits and bobs.

The major problem with this grunt work type selling is, besides wasting a lot of time and effort, that it positions the firm as a group of peddlers everyone tries to avoid like the plague. Some people simply prefer to chase clients and can’t wait for them to come to them foe help. They obviously have a peddler streak in them, and may have a hard time to become trusted advisors.

I have some friends who are typical peddlers. They drive around all day from appointment to appointment – (half of them cancelled just before their arrival, and this is how they get their sense of success. Yes, financially they are reasonably successful. However, the hunting and hounding process eats up most of the money they make. They are also always chronically stressed, tired and short of time.

They are the people who talk on their curly cord phones, on their mobile phones, talk to a few people on MSN messenger, fiddle with their Palm Pilots while "sustaining" a face-to-face conversation. They work harder than prisoners in the Gulag, but still end up like a rocking chair: Lots of activity but not much progress.

Traditional selling is based on digging for needs, pains and problems, then doing dog and pony shows (euphemistically called sales presentations), presenting features and benefits, handling objections and then closing and closing again, that is manipulating people out of their money.

Let’s stop here. Why do you think there are objections in the process? Great answer. Yes, buyers actually object the salespeople, not their services. They object the approach. That’s it. Objections are related to the person, not to the presented product or service.

Well, the other option is that they just don’t need the services right then. Well, if you’re a man and I’m a gynecologist, there is no way I can sell me services to you. There is no match.

The other problem is the commission structure. Many technology consulting firms are notorious for hiring salespeople to drum up business. In their marketing materials they talk about "partnering" with their clients. But what sort of partnership can I expect of the firm, if my first contact is with a hard-nosed peddler whose sheer focus is to make an instant sale because the stupid firm is motivating him with the commission?

Most traditional salespeople only care about their next commissions. This form of compensation attracts people with certain character traits. They are highly competitive and inherently dislike collaboration and teamwork. They go for glory and they don’t need a team to accomplish that. Their only motivating factor is the next commission. What clients really want or need are irrelevant. They want to sell the most expensive solution right now.

And if you don’t believe me, then think about why people speed on highways when there are no cops around? Because they can get away with it. These salespeople do the hard sell it because it is doable and because this is their only motivating factor. They need that commission.

The traditional sales revolves around some of these mantras

  1. Digging a ditch, push prospects into the it, and reach out to "save" them

  2. Building rapport to pretend you are on their side

  3. Creating pain and agitating it

  4. The ABC of selling is always be closing: Early, close often, close late

  5. Don’t take no for an answer

  6. Up-sell and cross-sell more stuff and more often

  7. Sell something, anything, whatever it takes

  8. Hound them down and keep hammering them until they give you money

  9. And the typical peddler’s daily motivation: "Create pain, agitate it into screaming agony and close, close, close!"

Conventional sales training focuses on pain, based on the fact that pain is a better motivator than pleasure. So, what do traditional salespeople focus? They focus on emotions like fear, greed, shame, guilt and power and control over people.

But as a buyer, why would I do business with someone who wants to work with me on negative emotions I want to keep pretty low in my own life?

And yes, we can sell bit s and bobs based on these negative emotions, but can we really establish trust with our clients this way?

After the manipulative nature of traditional selling had become as obvious as a ham sandwich, "experts" quickly started developing new approaches like "consultative selling", "non-manipulative selling", "solution selling" and "partnership selling".

Just picking the last one, "partnership selling". Imagine two spouses – the ultimate partners – visiting a marriage counsellor who practices partnership selling. So, if the counsellor becomes a "partner", then who the sausage is the other spouse? Have you heard the saying that that "two is company but three is a crowd?"

Or look at consultative selling. "Let’s get together for free, and I’ll give you sales pitch." of course, it’s called free consultation.

Professional firms that operate on a partnership basis should understand that clients are not partners, just as marriage counsellors are not partners. What would you say if your spouse had an affair with your marriage counsellor? Hey, after all, the counsellor is a partner, isn’t he? So, what is the big deal? Who are the other partners? The mailman or the milkman?

The point is that a salesperson can never become the buyer’s partner. That is plain retarded. And if you think in terms of a law firm or any other professional service firm, you can better understand what the word "partner" really means.

The other false aspect of traditional selling is "becoming the buyer’s friend". But if you become a friend, you lose your objectivity, and you are no longer suitable for being a person suggesting appropriate solutions from an unbiased vantage point. Besides, infiltrating buyers’ confidence on the false pretext of being their friends in order to take their money is not exactly a nice process.

This is where traditional salespeople engage in "You fish? I fish too" type rapport-building. Then after the rapport-building, salespeople ask some leading questions to find – or in the worst case, to create – some pain, agitate it to make it seriously hurt, and then push their prospects into a tight corner where there is no escape from. All, right, it is called the closing process, but essentially it is the same as wrestling a pig to the ground, holding it down tight, while somebody nonchalantly cuts its throat, while the pig is screaming its "objection" to the process.

Or I could even compare it to rape. Pin the woman to the ground and get your own way while she’s screaming "Nooooooooooo!".

Essentially, the negative emotions like greed and fear hold prospects to the ground, they voice their objections, but the ruthless salesperson couldn’t care less, and nonchalantly cuts prospects’ purse strings and bleeds them out of their money. And after the salesperson is gone with the money, prospects realize their is no point in screaming because the money is gone forever.

And this may be a pretty crude comparison, but realistically prospects are just unwilling to give their money as the pig is unwilling to give its blood. But the objective of traditional selling is that nobody cares about what prospects want. The mantra of traditional selling is to take prospects’ money whatever it takes, and don’t take no for an answer. The objective is to enrich the selling firm.

So, the essential summary of the traditional process is that you are expected to become the friend of your prospects, and your compensation depends on the amount of money you can extort out of them. So, in this scenario, your objectivity basically goes down the toilet, and what prospects want and need become irrelevant. The objective becomes to sell the highest-commission item.

But let’s consider now that you have a good experience with the salesperson you start working with. Then you have to watch out for the dreaded…

Bait And Switch

This happens when professional service firms employ separate salespeople because the so-called professionals are unwilling to bring in business there is a big problem.

You start building a relationship with the salesperson, and then when you sigh the contract, the sales disappears and a new group of people invade your life. These are the professionals who will do the work. But you don’t know then and don’t trust them. Why would you? They’ve just turned up from nowhere.

Imagine this situation.

You approach a dating agency, they match you up and you start dating the woman of your dreams. Mutual attraction is building up.

And one day you decide to marry her. And at the very moment when you say, "I do", she transfers into a butt-ugly witch with one leg, three breasts, breath of a camel, a hunchback and a hair of a haystack. On the top of all this she smells like a vacuum cleaner’s armpits.

Now you’re surprised. What the hell has just happened here? Where the haemorrhaging hell are you coming from, darling?

Then you start thinking to yourself, "I rather castrate myself than live and make love with this cursed implement of hell."

Then you call the dating agency and demand an answer. And you got it, "Well sir, we only have a very limited number of bombshells, and we use them as baits to sell our butt-ugly witches."

And this is exactly how clients feel when they start with a salesperson and after signing the contract the salesperson disappears and a new group of people show up.

The fact is that we may live in a skepticism-riddled society, and many firms recognize it in theory, they do precisely dick to address the issue and improve the situation.

So, handing the role of acquiring clients to separate salespeople, who are the least trusted, least respected, least reliable, least predictable, least consistent and have the highest level of attrition in the whole firm is plain suicide. Society has a stigma about salespeople. Why on earth would a firm reaffirm this stigma by relegating client acquisition to these non-trusted people whose annual attrition is 43%? There is a half-half chance that these salespeople next year are working for the competition. Remember we’ve already established that they only care about the money. That’s why they work for commissions.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against these people per se. I’m against the context within which they are employed. To me it sounds like a military general who shouts, "Crush them, boys. We’ll be with you in spirit and watch you from the other side of the river."

Once upon a time in was the general’s job to actually lead the army to battle. Well, once upon a time it was partners’ jobs (really everyone’s job) to bring in new business.

In contrast to peddlers, trusted advisors attract clients by the persons they become. As the saying goes, "You can’t pursue success. You attract it by the person you become". And this approach excludes the employment of

So, lets step inside…

…The Drastically Different World of Trusted Advisors

Here there is a huge shift in the basic approach to selling. Instead of using a separate group of peddlers to intimidate prospects into buying by using fear, greed, shame or guilt, trusted advisors inspire their clients by opening up new possibilities for them to fulfill their core values, help them to live their lives based on their beliefs and build themselves bigger and brighter futures, thus improving the quality of their lives.

Professionals who sell as a Trusted Advisors go for the fit, that is, first of all they discover whether or not there is a connection between them and their prospects based on mutual trust and respect. They don’t even consider selling anything unless these basic criteria are met.

Trusted Advisors use facts and positive emotions with prospects. The facts are used to diagnose the current situation and positive emotions are used to propel buyers forward on a positive tone. The aim is not really to sell something per se, but to help prospects to make a go/no go decision. If they decide they want to buy, that is great. If they decide they don’t want to go ahead, then both sellers and prospects can move on with their lives.

And we have arrived at two different methods both Peddlers and Trusted Advisors use to accepting and working with clients.

In one model you qualify prospects, which essentially means that you manipulate prospects into your mould. You ask leading questions and you actually corner the prospect. The objective is to sell them something… Anything. This is pretty similar to the rape model described above.

The Other Model Is Disqualification.

Why disqualification. Fist you are not attached to the outcome. Whatever happens, happens, and if the buyer doesn’t hire you, you move on wasting as little time and effort as possible. This is one more reason to automate as much of your buying process as possible.

The essence of disqualification is to be honest and upfront. You may say, this is the minimum, but this is also something many people (usually inappropriate prospects) don’t like. For instance I ask prospects to come to the first in-person meeting with a $1,000 cheque filled in to me. No, I don’t take the cheque. It’s just a sign of commitment, indicating that if we have a mutually beneficial basis for moving forward, then we can do so without delay. Guess what? Prospects who have an intention to move forward have no problem with this approach. Tyre kickers do and they call me a scumbag for my "greedy, covert and deceptive" approach. The funny thing is that I put everything in writing even before the gig, simply because, for the sake of clarity, I communicate only in writing. To me this is a filter system, and when tyre-kickers get caught in my safety net, they cry foul.

This disqualification model allows me to work only with clients with whom we can achieve great results. Consulting is collaborative. I can’t produce results for someone else. It must be a joint effort. And what I’ve found over the years that the most successful professional firms march to the beat of their own drums and they don’t allow clients to manage their operations. I can’t go to Harvard and ask the dean to lower the standards for me. They don’t care about how much I would pay. They would never water down the standards just to admit me and grab my money.

Qualification focuses on trying to make prospects fit into a pre-created mould that is being shaped by salespeople as they find out more about their prospects.

"You fish? I fish too!" – When the prospect is a fisher.

"You hunt? I hunt too!" – When the prospect is a hunter.

"You cycle? I cycle too!" – When the prospect is a cyclist.

Do you see the fallacy of this commonality stuff?

How does this look in a disqualification model? Simple.

"You fish? Great! I hunt!" – And if you don’t like hunters, you can leave now. This is about authenticity. Do you actually dare to be yourself in front of prospects?

Qualification Vs. Disqualification – A Comparison

I’ve bought in with this disqualification model, but let’s compare the two.

Qualification-Based Selling

The qualification model is about having your prospects do what has to be done for you to get what you want. That is, closing the next gig. The problem with this model is that there is no ideal Client profile or any other measuring stick against which you measure the quality of the opportunity. The goal is to close every single opportunity. This model revolves around the old sales model of presenting – handling objections – closing.

In the qualification model it’s quite possible, and it happens quite often, that professionals stretch the truth in order to get the next gig. Just think about what many sales programs teach about getting through gatekeepers. Yes, it’s become normal to lie to gatekeepers. Is it surprising at all that it’s also become the norm to lie to people who sell? It’s just the marketplace’s reaction.

Now look at the appointment setting process. How retarded is it to say that, "I’ll be in your area on Wednesday. Do you prefer to meet at 9:00Am or 3:00PM?" Do you see the dynamic here? There is no way out for the prospect. There is third option, "Do you want to meet at all?"

And when your prospects have objections, then you use one of the 1001 objection handling techniques you’ve just learnt from the sales guru of your city who’ve been selling commodities but not professional services. And this is where most sales trainers teach you to compare your fees to silly things (according to you) prospects are already spending their money. So, the process is pretty patronizing (Don’t argue with me, idiot. I know what you need) and antagonistic (I’ll take your money right now whatever it takes).

Selling through qualification is a process of smoothing or slickly bypassing all the possible obstacles and arriving at a decision. The problem is that while you’re admiring the great colors on the picture, the X-ray still shows cancer. That is, regardless of your conclusion or the positive buying decision, the obstacles are still out there, and they can raise their heads at any time, called buyer’s remorse. The problem is that this process ignores what sellers want and focuses on what buyers want. And since this process is based on manipulation, it creates sales resistance. And there is not a sausage you can do about it.

Disqualification-Based Selling

I was first exposed to disqualification-based through Gill Wagner of Honest Selling shortly after I arrived in Canada in 1998. Gill opened a brand new world for me, and ever since I’ve been living in that world.

In the disqualification model, instead of finding ways of making buyers buy your stuff, you’re looking for reasons, showstoppers, why they shouldn’t buy what you sell. This approach achieves two important things. First, people will trust you because you actually give them a way out. Not just giving them a way out, you encourage them to find alternative options to buying from you. It’s like in military training when the drill sergeant keeps yelling at the new recruits, "Who is ready to quit? Who is the next loser? Maybe you? Or you?" And you may want to know that the military has a notoriously low attrition rate. When you’re training to be the best you can be (US Army credo), you don’t just quit unless you’re dead.

The whole idea is that you’re not willing to go into manipulative dog and pony shoes with buyers. You meet eye-to-eye as peers, and of that’s not good enough for the buyers, then you can just leave and move on. One example for the dog and pony show is, "Send a proposal and we’ll think about it." As we’ve discussed in previous issues, the proposal is merely a written summary of an already verbally sealed agreement, called the conceptual agreement. The proposal is NOT sales document. No, you do business with people with whom there is a mutually beneficial basis for working together, based on jointly agreed terms.

Regarding gatekeepers, you just accept and respect whatever they say. They say that because they’ve been empowered and authorized to say it, and there is nothing you can do about it. Trying to lie your way through gatekeepers can only harm you.

Overcoming objections is a no-no as well. People make decisions for specific reasons, and you have no right to challenge their decisions. Whatever they decide is the best pragmatic decision for them.

Considering that at any one time, some 95% of your prospects are not ready to hire you, using the disqualification model, you can quickly sift through your prospects and spent time with the ones that are ready, willing and able to hire you right now.

As opposed to the qualification model (subjective persuasion from the seller’s perspective), the disqualification model is based on objective and joint diagnosis, the way doctors work. And as we know, doctors don’t have price objections but do have client commitment.


Now think about the whole sales process. The typical business to business sales cycle was about 6 months to 2 years. During the last five years, according to SiriusDecisions, this number has gone up by 22% and by three more decision-makers in the equation. Using traditional manipulative we can fool some of the buyer but not all of them. And one "No" is enough to bring the deal to grinding halt.

Think about the whole process. There must be an agreement and willingness to work together without manipulation and persuasion.

Ing. Ivan Vobořil Ivan Vobořil

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