This appeared in print as part of the story “Best Laid Plans” In 2007, the City of Columbia’s visioning document suggested that council...
If you pay attention to business news, you are surely familiar with all the new terms that describe the process by which people make purchases.
You’ve heard of customer engagement. This is when a business creates content that people who match a customer profile will find interesting so that some of the people will see the business as an expert in the field and become lifelong customers.
You’ve seen the term inbound marketing, when businesses make products or services so appealing to those they wish to engage with that the potential customers contact the business to make a purchase.
If you only read the headlines, you’d believe that consumers control the purchasing process, and businesses can only hope engaged people will buy something.
It would seem from all you see and read that the age of selling is over. No one wants to be sold to, but everyone wants to buy things. No one wants to be a sales person, but everyone wants to increase revenue. It would seem fitting in the age of mobile devices and technology-induced short attention spans that something as old-fashioned and archaic as selling would be left along the side of the road of progress.
This must be true because big-box retailers complain of show-rooming, when consumers go to a big-box store to look at items they will later order online from another seller. If selling were still alive, the big-box retailers would be able to sell something to the people doing the show-rooming.
They haven’t stopped buying
I have been a sales person all my life. I sold flower seeds in the first grade as a fundraiser. I started my first business in the sixth grade with a roll of paper towels and a can of window clear. I cold called businesses on the main streets near my home and started a window-cleaning route. I have been a salesperson ever since. So it is with great sadness that I accept and announce the end of the age of selling.
Wait a minute! Maybe I’m wrong. People haven’t stopped buying, have they? No, of course not. You still need to grow revenue and bill for more products or more services, right? Certainly. Maybe I’m just falling for a ruse.
Maybe the big retailers want us to think the age of selling is over so they can make the sales you might have made, had you only believed you could have made them.
That would be the perfect play. While they attempt to overwhelm competitors with expensive marketing campaigns and cool gadgetry, they still have to convert all of those people they engage with and all the people who contact them into paying customers. Converting engaged people into paying people is not that easy.
If the small and medium-sized businesses stopped trying to sell because they thought people no longer liked to be sold to, then the big retailers would win all the business. Do you really want everyone to buy everything from Amazon and Apple?
Sell like you mean it
There is a simple way to take back control of your business destiny. Sell like you mean it. If you haven’t been paying attention to the sales development of your staff because you have been busy with other things, it’s time to get back to it. If you’ve never thought your product or service is something that can be “sold,” then you need to rethink that proposition. As long as people want to buy things, you can increase your share of the global spend if you work on your selling skills.
Look around you at the small businesses that are thriving in Columbia. Have they stopped selling? Are they only engaging and hoping?
Selling is not for the weak or tender, though good training and coaching can make anyone stronger and more resilient. Selling is a serious art and science that can be learned and taught.
Take a step back, and check yourself. Are you willing to make the commitment necessary to retool and rebuild the selling side of your business? If you are, then start a journey with me.