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Strathclyde Business School

Live hard, sell hard? Not anymore....

By Michael Marck - Posted on 5 March 2013

Dr Michael Marck, Department of Marketing, and Academic Director of Strathclyde Business School’s MBA programmes in south east Asia, looks at the changing nature of sales…

What comes to mind when you hear the words ‘sales person’?

The chances are you’re thinking sharp suit, smooth talk and no substance. Years of cold-calling, door-stepping and aggressive sales techniques have given sales professionals a bad rep, and understandably so.

The good news is sales professionals have begun to wake up to the fact that increasingly, the hard sell doesn’t work.

At a time when economic conditions have seen both consumers and businesses faced with difficult choices, added pressure and holes in their wallets, the last thing people want to deal with are pushy salespeople trying to force costly products on them they don’t want or need.

Most progressive companies now realise pressure tactics are not the best way to react to falling sales. Of course, there will always be a place for cold-calling, but what these ‘smart’ businesses have woken up to is the idea of relationship selling. It’s common-sense; if a salesperson can reduce a customer’s costs and increase their revenues they’ve hit on a win-win formula and should reap the rewards.

Obviously, this doesn’t happen overnight. This can only happen if the salesperson and their company get to know the customer, and their needs, to build a mutually beneficial relationship.

So how can businesses foster a culture of relationship selling?

Simply put, it all comes down to teamwork. At every level, organisations need to develop a culture of team selling whereby all employees are educated in, and feel part of, the sales process.

Employees must be made aware of how their role adds value, how they support sales and how they can help their organisation differentiate from competitors. Everyone from the receptionist to the handy-man, the I.T. Manager to the CEO, should know who their organisation’s top 25 customers are, who it’s aiming to acquire and which customers it’s previously lost.

To encourage this, rewards for sales successes should be shared, not only among front-facing salespeople, but with all employees.

Not only will this approach help to make customers and prospects feel valued – it’s always nice to be recognised when you call a supplier – but it will also help to attract and retain sales talent.

What are your thoughts on relationship selling? Is there still a place for volume sales? Let us know in the comments below.

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