The Sales Profession is changing. Not too long ago there was still a core belief from C-teams down through first level sales management that selling was about persuading, convincing, entertaining and even coercion. As a rep I remember sitting in the dreaded weekly sales roundtable as the sales manager went rep-to-rep asking each of us what we were doing to “close the customer.”
We used terms like battle plans and top reps were called Fighter Pilots. I was never sure who should have been more insulted by that one, the poor unknowing prospects or the real fighter pilots out there defending our country. Humorously, “Must Win Deals” were privileged to make it to the war room.
Clever phrases were everywhere, all claiming to offer the magic formula to break down prospects’ defenses and convince them to buy something they didn’t know they couldn’t survive another quarter without. Here are some of the infamous favorites.
Creating FUD (as in Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). It claimed that only when your prospect was truly experiencing that sorrowful state would they finally break open their checkbook and pay your company to make it go away.
Penetrate and Radiate. Still sounds more like a lethal disease than a sales strategy, but it rhymed so it qualified.
Selling to VITO, (as in Very Important Top Officers). Send a letter to the admin telling them you would be calling the boss next Tuesday at 2:00. When that time rolled around she completely forgot how that mystery appointment appeared and put you through immediately.
Cold Calling. At least the pre-caller ID old days gave us poor reps the chance to launch into our unexpected and unwanted ambush. If you think it effective, Amazon still carries more than 172 titles dedicated to calling somebody who doesn’t want to hear from you.
ABC (Always Be Closing). As in “A-B-C. A-always, B-be, C-closing. Always be closing! Always be closing!!” (Glengarry Glen Ross, written by David Mamet).
The premise of most of these slogan strategies was to reach the summit of prospect dialogue and gain the opportunity to deliver that almighty, perfect phrase, a.k.a. ‘the Unique Selling Proposition’, ‘Key Differentiator’, ‘Value Proposition’, etc. Somehow that astonishing turn of phrase would create need where there was none previously, fear that indecision would prove disastrous, or visions of profit sugarplums that only your solution could render.
Times have indeed changed. Sales success today is empowered by technology, automation, real-time intelligence, micro-segmentation and science. Sales reps still play a vital role, as does sales management, but neither has anything to do with catch-phrase sales strategies.
The only slogan that still matters is the new “ABC’s of Sales” – Always Be Changing.