Author, Speaker, Creative Catalyst
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The sales experience: Stop selling, start innovating?

5th May 2011
Author, Speaker, Creative Catalyst
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Lior Arussy ponders the problems of trust and sales people - what does it mean for redesigning sales and the role of the sales person?

Here is a quick question to ponder: "What percentage of claims from sales people do you trust?"

Is it 100% (just kidding)? 80%? 70%? 50%?
Hopefully your comfort zone is somewhere between 0% and 100%. Did I mention this was a tricky question?
Trust, like pregnancy is not subject to percentage. You’re either pregnant or not. You either trust someone 100% or you don’t trust that person at all. Similarly with sales people, you either trust their claims fully or you do not trust them at all.
If customers do not trust your sales people then it is time to reconsider their role. If the role of your sales force is to engender trust and confidence in prospects so that they are willing to purchase products and services, then why send untrustworthy individuals to sell? When we consider the fact that customers trust faceless and often anonymous individuals on Yelp and Amazon for recommendations, it’s high time to seriously reconsider who it is that we trust to serve as the face of our companies. What does this tell you about your chances of winning the business? What does it mean of your chances for creating and maintaining a profitable business? 
To top it all off, the United States sales force is shrinking. At a recent conference I heard an alarming statistic that the number of sales people in the US will drop from 18 million to 3 million by 2020. 
So what does this all mean to our sales experience and the future of sales?
The erosion in the role of the sales person did not begin with the social media evolution. Previous attempts to halt this erosion included the utilisation of new themes and initiatives such as consultative sales and trusted advisors. Yet the simple reality is and always has been that if prospects or customers desire a consultant, they’ll hire one. As for a trusted advisor, the mere fact that such a concept exists is indicative of the notion that a sales person has an agenda and isn’t all that trustworthy to begin with. All that companies and sales organisations have attempted to do is spin the title of a sales person to appear more trustworthy while performing the same duties as was done in the past.
At its very core, the sales role needs to change in a fundamental way. No longer can sales be seen merely from the lens of selling but rather it needs to be embraced as a state of mind in which we sales representatives know the answers before the questions are ever asked. Customers need to believe that sales people will be truthful when they make promises and not merely say whatever needs to be said in order to make the sale.
The sales experience must be designed around the sales person as general manager of the relationship fully responsible for execution of the promise. It is only when the sales person owns the execution or delivery and is held accountable for the promise will trust be established. If the sales person is merely an agent of promise and sale but is not held accountable for the promise, then the customer will never trust what he or she is being told. Sales people must cross the line from the promise-land over into the delivery-land. They need to be part of the solution not just talk about it.
The new sales role must be to delight customers through delivery but always be willing to walk away when the solution and fit is not right for the customer. Holding sales people accountable to the delivery ensures that they will not promise what cannot be delivered.
In short, to redesign the sales experience, we need to redesign the role of a sales person. The customer does not need another solution promise. The customer needs a solution guaranteed deliverer. If you are ready to make this commitment, you will develop the 100% trust needed to win the business!
Lior Arussy is the president of Strativity Group a global customer experience research and consulting firm. Arussy is the author of five books including Customer Experience Strategy – The Complete Guide From Innovation to Execution (4i, 2010). Follow Lior on Twitter @LiorStrativity

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