Updated: Mar 27, 2020
By Steve Lesnewich
Pretty much every time I teach our Manufacturing Technology Sales Fundamentals (MTSF) class, I’m amazed at some of the social media and web skills these young new sales professionals possess. They are experts at using new tools like the internet, Facebook, and LinkedIn to make learning everything about a new prospect or existing customer easy. They are smart and they are thorough. But just ask them, God forbid, to make a phone call or actually visit the customer and they find a million ways to talk their way out of it. Why? I have no idea.
Thanks to social media and several professional networks, today’s customer is a more informed, savvy, and empowered buyer than ever before. Years ago, when I was a purchasing agent, research was done using the Yellow Pages and the hardbound Thomas Register of American Manufacturers, which could only be found at local libraries. Today, tools like Techspex.com will give the customer everything he needs to know regarding specifications, available models, and, in some cases, pricing. LinkedIn will provide a fairly good idea about a company’s reputation from actual users (albeit some answers are biased, and they must separate the wheat from the chaff).
The balance of power over the past several years has tilted in favor of the buyer. But today, according to John Golden, noted author and globally acknowledged sales and marketing thought leader, speaker, and strategist, “Salesperson 2.0” has met the challenge and has become a more sophisticated and informed seller. Mr. Golden realizes that there are four skills Salesperson 2.0 must master that are critical to his or her success. The first three are no surprise, as they easily fit these young salespersons’ skillsets. They are:
Research skills. Salesperson 2.0 has developed these skills by using social media and online networks to learn more about the target buyer, business issues, opportunities, and what’s happening in that market segment.
Business acumen. The days of superficial business knowledge are gone. Salesperson 2.0 knows how his client’s business or market segments operate. Understanding the business impact of your solution is how you add value to the purchase.
Micromarketing. Salespeople need to get above the noise of social media and professional networks. Salesperson 2.0 adds marketing skills to his or her assets. He must communicate in a very concise fashion with only the pieces of information that add value, provide insight, and attract the buyer’s attention.Remarkably, not only are they really good at finding this information, but they have no problem doing all this research using just their smartphones. It’s amazing how fast they are with their thumbs. But being good at these three skillsets only gets you so far. What it does not guarantee is that you will get the sale. For example, lets look at a scene from the movie, “The Internship” (I love referencing old movies, especially when they can teach a lesson to a Road Warrior!). Anyway, Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) are old school sales guys who have just been downsized. With no other prospects, they decide, despite their complete lack of technological savvy, that they should work for Google. They manage to finagle Google internships and head out to Silicon Valley. Once there, they are put into teams and compete in a series of team challenges. The members of the winning team are promised jobs at Google. Billy and Nick are teamed with four very young and highly technical “Googley” teammates. The first several challenges are very nerdy and technical and their team does fairly well. But it’s the final challenge that proves to be almost impossible: selling Google web services to a very popular pizza parlor. Prior to the final challenge, Billy leaves the team, believing he had let them down in their last challenge. Nick goes to find Billy, leaving the remaining members of the team on their own to make the sale. Yes, the kids had done the research and the legwork to find the qualified data to make their case. They were armed and very dangerous with their knowledge. As you have probably already guessed, they fail miserably. They were missing a skill, and without it, all the data in the world wouldn’t help them succeed. The missing ingredient?
Fundamental selling skills. It’s the most important skill required to be a successful salesperson. Can you believe it? All those other skills and all that data … and yet the most important skill to be successful in sales is that you must know the fundamental skills of selling. According to Mr. Golden, “While a salesperson’s interactions may be more virtual than before, technology alone in any form or forms will not sell for them nor will it compensate for their shortcomings.” Who knew? So back to the movie. Billy and Nick show up outside the pizza parlor where the kids are standing after having lost the sale. After a short pep talk from Billy, they go back into the pizza parlor. Billy and Nick immediately create a rapport with the owner and his son. They ask about the business. They listen. They ask what was so special about their pizzas. They listen. Then the kids, in their Googley way, use their research, business, and micromarketing skills to suggest ways that they could expand their business and not lose the uniqueness and quality that has made their pizzas so popular. Bingo, bango, bongo! They get the sale, win the Google challenge, and are awarded jobs at Google. All because they used the fundamental skills of selling.
Bottom line: Research, business acumen, and micromarketing are great skills to have, but it’s applying the fundamentals of sales that completes the equation that allows you to succeed.
By the way, if you’re wondering if this was a not-so-subtle promotion for AMT’s class on “Manufacturing Technology Sales Fundamentals?” You betcha it is!