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Selling the Salesperson

Written by: Walter Ruckes
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Despite the trend and tendency of customers to avoid salespeople, the art of selling is alive and well. 


At BI WORLDWIDE Canada, we use the principles of behavioural economics to create the best engagement strategies on the planet. We work with expert academics who advise us on the latest research on human behaviour, engagement and decision-making. We use non-cash rewards and recognition to engage and motivate employees and sales teams.

It seems there are two unstoppable trends that are currently on a collision course. They will affect the way you look at the process of buying AND selling. They involve the way you hire, onboard, train and compensate salespeople. These trends also have implications on the way you go to market and chase the happily-ever-after nirvana called customer loyalty.

Let’s look at the trends first; then we’ll introduce four steps you can take to integrate your sales and marketing efforts in a fresh new way.

TREND #1: Buyers will do almost anything they can to avoid salespeople.

There are plenty of statistics I could quote to prove my point but do I need to waste your time? We all need transportation, insurance, a place to live, food to eat, a cup of coffee, maybe some carpet and a vacuum to clean it. We need appliances and computers and a bank account – the list goes on.

With the prevalence of smartphones, your customers can do all of the research necessary to walk in the door of your closest retail operation and say: “I want one of those. In light green. Tomorrow.” That is, if they even walk in your door at all.

This trend is also invading the B2B world. In the book The Challenger
Customer from CEB, it seems corporations have done everything they can to put up roadblocks that scare away all but the bravest salespeople. The most staggering stat? At most corporations, the average sales rep is outnumbered 5.4 to 1 before they even walk in the door for the first meeting.

The final strike against salespeople is that the only time customers want to talk to them is when they are NOT selling. Have something to teach? I’m interested. Can you get me a better deal? I’m listening. Have information that can get me promoted? Come into my office!

TREND #2: Everyone is selling something, at some point.

Starting with kids selling their parents on the importance of going to the amusement park or a nervous teenager selling their heartthrob on the idea of a first date, we learn to sell our ideas to friends and family from a very early age.

And just like worn-out parents or uninterested classmates, today’s customers do everything in their power to avoid salespeople and the sales process. The reality, however, is that unless you are selling to a machine, there are still factors (often illogical and emotional) that quickly become part of the equation during the buying process.

Here are three examples grounded in the science of behavioural economics:

1. Tyranny of Choice: At any given time there are more homes for sale in your town than you can rationally evaluate. And
if you are shopping for a car, I dare you to take the time off work to drive every option to ensure you are making a strictly objective decision. Cars, homes and even vacuum cleaners can be emotional decisions. We use heuristics (mental shortcuts)
to narrow our decisions. For better or worse, one of the best shortcuts is still a salesperson.

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