The Inevitable and Almighty Evolution of Sales


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For those keeping track of the sales evolution, there is an underlying aspect of it all that has remained constant throughout history.

What is that common, ever evolving element? It is that the business of selling has always been a social business.

While there are moments in history one could point to where the sales process has been more impersonal. It seems that in recent years the process has not only returned full circle, but moved on to a new level entirely.

Companies have traditionally tried to multiply their results by multiplying their efforts, a fact that remains true today. Instead, they are now reaping the reward of a digital revolution that has given them a socially acceptable way of interacting with potential consumers that is no longer seen as a hard sell.
So to further understand the future we take a look back at how the sales process has evolved throughout history and how it has drastically changed in the last twenty years.

A brief history of sales

What simply began as a way of fulfilling the basic necessities of existence, the art of bartering for the most part, was done amongst people from different areas that each had their own special product to offer the world. It was a grueling process in which people would have to set out on complex journeys just to bring back the desired goods and supplies.

This method continued to develop over hundreds and thousands of years as enterprising merchants began to take to the road, roaming from region to region to spread the various merchandise they collected during their travels.

As the population grew, so did the cities. Add to that mix the creation of a government or ‘ruler’ backed currency and the buying and selling of goods rapidly stepped into a new millennium.

The evolution of sales in recent years

From those traditional beginnings came our first modern sales person. These old fashion suit-and-tie types are the reason we have sayings like, “hitting the pavement.” That is because before technology a sales representative, regardless of their product, had to hit the streets and make their sales in person.

This person-to-person contact allowed real relationships to be built and allowed the confidence one had in those they were dealing with that they weren’t going to be taken advantage of. It was a time when sales people put their reputation on the line as the bridge between manufacturer and consumer. When a deal could be considered done with a good old handshake.

Then, as the telephone gained popularity and home installations grew, sales begun to transition from face-to-face exchanges into something less personal. Without having to expend the same energy to travel a territory, businesses were able to set up phone farms and run their sales teams from a central call center. Even with the public showing its distain for the technique this move to telemarketing has had a long and successful run producing new sales.

As we entered the 21st century, both face-to-face selling and telemarketing were still widely being used. However, a new and inexpensive way of communicating was about to be introduced. This new method of communicating was email.

Now, instead of showing up on someones doorstep or interrupt them by calling during dinner, a salesman could send an email message to their prospects email address and follow up from there. Unfortunately too many began relying on the belief that sales are strictly a numbers game and the byproduct was something called ‘spam.’

As things tend to do when they grow and evolve the time between advancement grows shorter and shorter. We spent thousands of years travelling to make a sale, a few decades on the telephone, and then only a few years utilizing email to reach the public.

In all of sales, the ultimate by product of doing an exceptional job has always been the word-of-mouth endorsement of a product or service when a consumer’s expectation is exceeded. This brings us to our newest sales trend, social media.

This new ‘social selling‘ has allowed the consumer to be more empowered throughout the sales process and for the first time in our history we have given the masses the tools to do the selling with us.
How has technology made the sales person more effective? Even Twitter which was mainly a personal or marketers tool for broadcasting has become a impactful medium for sales people.

Online strategists, Activated Strategies points out, first through humor then comparison, that there are quite a few evolutions to the sales process that have occurred just in the last twenty years.

For example in the early 1990’s sales professionals would construct the “reason to buy” a product, while today we ask the customers what they need and how they would like us to deliver it. Then we build our solutions to match their desires.

Twenty years ago we found ways to “counter” our customer’s complaints, now we listen to the consumer’s trepidations and design ways to resolve them.
It’s the way we handle these “trigger events” that has changed.

In the 90’s we’d use manipulative phrases or customer guiding “sales words” to lure in new clients. Now, customers appreciate and respond when we simply use a natural dialogue as if we are having a real conversation. That is because we know that our intentions are pure, the way we convey that will come naturally.

We used to be centered on this attitude that was combative towards anyone we were in competition with. We believed that someone needed to lose before we could win. Now, we have begun to work as partners. Finding that it is possible for everyone to win, because in the end we either all win or no one will.

These friendlier trends have led to the executives even following other executives social profiles in an attempt to stay connected, informed, and available for collaboration whenever it’s feasible.

On another note, we used to believe that everyone was a potential customer. So we cast our nets far and wide with hopes of pulling in the most return. Fortunately, that old belief has now changed to be more about the customer’s desire. If they don’t want what we are selling, why would we waste the energy?

Instead, we now have social networks in which like-minded and interested individuals opt-in to be part of the process. This has given rise to more of a social enterprise or social selling that puts the buyers and sellers more or less on the same side. Leveraging social media tools like Twitter and other social networks, sales people can be extremely effective in getting in the door.

And that’s what we call the inevitable and almighty evolution of sales.

Want to find out this can apply to your business? Learn more here: Sales Intelligence – InsideView

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Koka Sexton
Koka Sexton, Social Selling Evangelist and Sr. Social Marketing Manager at LinkedIn, is one of the most recognized social selling experts in the technology industry. A career in helping companies use social media for lead generation, creating new opportunities, and engaging customers. READ MORE at the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog.


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