Sales Road Kill


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The other day, responding to a great comment on one of my posts, I referred to Sales Road Kill–those “sales people” who either do not recognize the world of buying and selling has changed forever, or those that ignore it, continuing with the same hackneyed approaches of the past (I’m frankly not sure they have ever worked).

There are endless blogs, books, and articles about how much has changed. I’ve often said more has changed in the past 5 years than ever before (actually I’ve borrowed that phrase from Dave Stein–he said it originally). I talk to thousands of sales people a year. The issues they face are the same:

  • We can’t get customers to see us?
  • We are struggling with finding enough new opportunities to fill our funnels?
  • It’s getting tougher and tougher to compete?
  • It’s harder to find the decision maker.
  • It’s getting harder to make quota and we’re making less money!

But then watch their sales approaches:

  • The prospecting calls that start with, “We are the industry leaders in these products and I’d like to tell you about our latest new models.”
  • Others that are, “Let me send you some information (I didn’t take the time to see if it was useful, but let me send it anyway)?”
  • Or those who don’t listen to the customers.
  • Or those who don’t understand their customers’ businesses, markets, or strategies.
  • Or those who think their value proposition is, “if you buy today, we’ll give you a discount.”
  • Or the sales manager that says, “We just need more techniques for closing.”
  • Or those that say, “All we have to do is up the number of dials we make every day.”

I can go on and on…. you know the scenarios I’m talking about, we see them everyday. We all know things have changed, yet too many “salespeople” have not changed. They resist new training programs, saying “I’m experienced, you can’t teach me anything new,” but they haven’t made their number in years. Those that do the same old things, but faster and longer. Those that are on auto-pilot, who think it’s just a matter of activity and don’t take the time to think and plan.

Everything in business has changed. I see few functions in any organization that are doing the same things they did 10-15 years ago. Engineering and development has changed, manufacturing has changed, customer service has changed, procurement and sourcing have changed, finance and administration have changed. Yet in sales we’re still doing the same things we did 10, 20, 30 (that exhausts my sales career) years ago. We may be “masking” it by using new tools, new language, but at it’s roots, we’re doing the same.

Selling is about change, yet too many sales people aren’t changing themselves. They are standing still with their own development and approaches to the customer. They will become Sales Road Kill. They will become irrelevant to their customers and to their own companies. These will be the sales people who haven’t changed, those who can’t bring value to their customers. They will be relegated to whatever scraps are left, grabbing a few orders here and there, winning only on price.

Some of the Sales Road Kill will be people who could have done more and who deserved more, but are the victims of poor leadership. Managers who don’t recognize they need to train, coach, and lead their people differently.

The final category has always been there and will persist in the future. These will be the “sleaze balls,” the peddlers who look to manipulate, lie, take advantage of their customer. They’ve always been around and like cockroaches, somehow always will be.

Do you want to be Sales Road Kill?

Avoid this by changing how you sell. Don’t wait for your managers, but change yourself. Look at how customers want to be engaged. Look at how you create value and the value they want. Develop new skills–not displacing some of the great skills you may already have, but to complement them. Become a student of selling, become a student of your customers and their markets. Always, always be learning and improving. Try new things–some will work and fit, some won’t.

Whatever you do, don’t stand still, ignoring the changes going on about you. Change, learn, improve.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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