"The Navigator" News Blog

Conceptual Selling: Why Not?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve discussed the evolution of selling, from transactional to relationship to conceptual.  We discussed the ‘whys’ of the evolution of selling, and I admitted that, to be 100% truthful, few of the companies I talk to are implementing a conceptual model.

I also promised that, in an upcoming article, I’d discuss the objections to conceptual selling.  Even if company managers have been exposed to conceptual selling, they (in many cases) are reluctant to move toward this sales model.  There are numerous reasons why, and we should discuss them here.  Some have validity – but many do not.

Nobody is doing it that way in our industry.  This is one I hear a lot; in many cases it is true.  There are industries where conceptual selling has not made its presence known yet.  The problem with this objection is this – conceptual selling tends to be one of those areas where early adopters have a HUGE advantage.  For instance, in the world of integrated supply, the companies that first began are now juggernauts, and make it very hard for late entries.

There’s nothing for us to conceptualize.  This is perhaps the strongest argument against conceptual selling; that whatever the company is doing simply can’t be integrated into a larger concept worthy of top management’s attention.  I think that there’s a fear, or philosophy, that smaller product categories can’t incorporate larger ones.  That’s false.  I have a client whose primary business is fasteners, and yet they have successfully created an integrated supply program incorporating the larger consumables and OEM products that their clients need.  Again, it’s a situation where the early adopter wins.

We don’t want to lose our current business.  One of the big ‘fear factors’ of conceptual selling is the idea that, by setting salespeople up to sell conceptually, you lose the right to have your salespeople still sell in your current model, whether that be transactional or relationship.  That’s false.  Usually, a few probing questions early in the process will let you know whether or not the client is open to a conceptual solution – and if they are not, you can simply continue on your old pattern.  If they are, you can steer the conversation to a conceptual one while still retaining your old model as a fallback.

Our salespeople can’t do it.  This is another one I hear a lot, and again, it has a certain validity.  Conceptual selling requires a higher level of sales acumen, a stronger ability to think on one’s feet, and a higher level of versatility in the call.  That said, how do you know they can’t if you haven’t given them the opportunity?  With the proper training and backing, most competent salespeople can succeed at conceptual selling.

There are, of course, others, but these are the ones I hear/read the most.  Let me give you a moment of encouragement.  Conceptual selling is coming, if it isn’t in your industry already.  Period.  And if you’re not ready for it, your competitors will be.  You don’t have to adopt it immediately, but you should be somewhere in the process of building a conceptual sales model.