"The Navigator" News Blog

What If You Forgot Everything You Knew About Sales?

Last weekend, we had a run of storms in Kansas City, and the power at my house went out.  That happens.  What’s not normal is that the power stayed out for over two days – and because of that, I had to clean out my refrigerator and throw everything away.  For the first time in over 30 years, I had to fill my refrigerator from scratch.  And I discovered something very interesting.  Do you know how hard it is to make a grocery list when you are starting from scratch?  I mean – when the ketchup bottle is empty, you put it on the list.  Remembering everything I keep in the fridge was a completely different exercise, and it wasn’t easy.

Some salespeople are (or should be) feeling like that right now.  Sales is changing, and it continues to change at a rapid pace. Some of the techniques and approaches that worked even just a few years ago are becoming outdated. Buyers are more informed, have higher expectations, and less patience for traditional sales tactics.  I’m no different; I have rewritten my training program in the last year to account for these changes.

Let’s be honest; most of you don’t have to throw away everything you’ve learned and start with an empty refrigerator, so to speak.  But with the changes, many salespeople can no longer rely on the techniques and habits built up over years or decades in the profession. The skills that made you successful in the past may now be a liability – or at least, be less effective than you were before. What if you need a complete reset?

Imagine that you wake up tomorrow having forgotten everything you knew about sales. The product knowledge, the presentation skills, the tips for overcoming objections – it has all been completely erased from your mind. You are a blank slate when it comes to selling.

Daunting as that may sound, it also presents an incredible opportunity to rebuild your sales approach from the ground up, aligned with modern buyer expectations and increased sophistication.

So if you found yourself in that scenario, how would you retrain yourself on selling? Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Immerse yourself in learning about the modern Buyer’s Journey. Don’t just read the classic sales books – look for new content exploring how buying behavior and effective selling strategies have shifted in the digital age. Yes – my videos are a great place to start, as are the articles on this blog, but I’m not blind to the fact that there are other voices.  Just beware of those voices (and there are a lot of them) that are saying the same thing they’ve been saying for decades.  If an author isn’t acknowledging the fact that sales is changing, that author is obsolete.
  2. Become a student of your specific buyers and market. Research your target prospects exhaustively – their roles, their issues and problems, their informational needs, the other solutions they are considering. Build out rich and detailed buyer personas.  Become a student of your target industry – not just how it affects you, but the trends and developments within it.
  3. Invest heavily in developing skills around questioning, modern prospecting, and articulating value rather than leading with product pitches. Sales is now about guiding Buyers through their own Journey to an informed decision.
  4. Get fluent in telling compelling stories and having conversations that are tailored and contextualized based on the specific buyer and situation. One-size-fits-all scripts are relics of the past; your customers want to feel like individuals. Give them that feeling through your one-to-one presentation and storyselling techniques.
  5. Master the art of effective follow-up and maintaining an authentic personal connection throughout a sales process that may take weeks or months with multiple stakeholders involved.  Continuing to keep everyone involved and moving at a proper pace can be challenging – but it’s doable.
  6. Learn to leverage sales technology and virtual selling approaches that enable you to efficiently pursue numerous opportunities in parallel through multiple channels and touch-points.  This isn’t optional now.  It’s one thing to understand how to correctly do a video call, and how to employ proper etiquette.  It’s another thing to be able to bring as many resources to the table as possible when you’re on a video call.  Your objective should be to simulate the face-to-face selling environment as much as possible.  For instance, can you quickly and easily take someone on a video facility tour?  Practice.  Get good at this.

The sales world has been disrupted and will only continue to evolve at a furious pace.  The Four Key Trends that I identified last year aren’t going away. Instead of trying to adapt your existing skillset in a piecemeal fashion, consider this an opportunity for a total reboot. Approach selling with a beginner’s mind and be willing to rebuild your approach from scratch based on modern buyer expectations.  You’ll find that many of your past techniques still have legs – and you’ll find that some need to be discarded in favor of updated skills. Those who can successfully retrain themselves will thrive, while those who cling to outdated methods will inevitably be left behind.

In fact, I actually discovered something funny when I went to the store.  There were several items on my list that I didn’t get, because I realized that I don’t use them much (or I don’t like them as much as I thought I did).  I also picked up some new things to try out – things that I probably wouldn’t have gotten if I’d just been restocking the fridge. One of them made for a very tasty dinner last night, so sometimes, resetting can be the best thing you can do.