This is a terrific article on how selling techniques have evolved.
How To Let Your Prospects Sell Themselves
Carter, R Douglas
The American Salesman - December 2, 2005
Originally Published: December 1, 2005
A powerful new paradigm is rumbling through the world of sales, transforming how professionals relate to and connect with their clients. In contrast to previous sales techniques, seventh generational sales puts the client firmly in control - with enormous benefits to both prospect and salesperson.
Let's take a look at how the sales process has evolved. Each generation of selling requires a Sociological shift in how salespeople relate to their prospects. The first generation entailed a trade or barter. Thog give you this if you give Thog that. You don't even need language to trade one thing for another. This simple, prehistoric method of exchange goes on to this day.
The second generation occurred when someone was able to create a stockpile. They most likely did this by controlling access to a necessary or desired commodity like food, water, shelter, salt, obsidian, etc. You want flint, go see Thog. It was our first store.
In the third generation of sales, Thog proactively took flint on the road. He became a peddler, looking for customers instead of waiting for them.
The fourth generation of sales took the form of a sales route - the first systematic approach. Thog learned certain clients bought from him at predictable times.
Fifth generational sales is called "the scientific approach" or need-based selling. Find a need and fill it. If you've ever attended a formal sales training, you probably learned fifth generation, need-based selling.
Fifth generational sales is based on a presentation where you need approaches and openings, features, benefits and evidence, along with tie-downs, nail-downs, holddowns and pin-downs. It's about responding to objections and rebuttals and 119 classic closes. This style of selling is the foundation for nearly every sales program taught today.
In the mid-to-late sixties, though, prospects got tired of being pitched. They started saying things like "Wait a minute. You don't know enough about my unique situation to know if your product will actually help me. You need to find out more about me and what I need before you start pitching me."
And, as a result, Sales managers and trainers developed consultative - sixth generational - selling. The notion behind consultative selling is that the salesperson acts as an assistant buyer, putting the client's needs first. However, consultative selling is an illusion bordering on manipulation because it still focuses on what works best for the salesperson.
In consultative selling the salesperson uses questions to qualify prospects and gather information which can be used later to leverage the prospect. Whether or not prospects understand their needs and motivation matters less because the salesperson assumes the role of an expert. It's still just a presentation punctuated by questions, the answers to which tell you what part of the presentation to give next.
Here's what doesn't work with this illusory process. Imagine that you, the salesperson, understand exactly what your prospect wants and how your product and service will help achieve this. On the other hand, your prospect doesn't have a clue. If your prospect doesn't make a connection between current circumstances and the impact of your product or service, are they going to buy? No.
In contrast, imagine your prospect discovers the connection your product or service provides between what is and what could be. Let's say that you only marginally understand this connection. Will your prospect buy? Yes.
Seventh generational sales, or Revelation Buying, isn't really about selling at all. It's about letting your prospects discover for themselves the long-range implications of doing what they are currently doing as compared with making a change. Here's how you can create this: ask questions for your prospects' sake, not for yours. "What is it they most want?" "What's going on now that tells them they need to make that change?" "What happens if they don't improve on situations like these?" "What happens if they do get the results they want?"
Asking questions like these requires you to set aside the universal human question, "What does this mean to me?" When you let prospects discover on their own the implications of their choices, it creates a trusting exchange. You get more referrals. You get bigger and higher quality sales because your prospects don't feel pressured. And as a result you can take more time off...and experience far more personal satisfaction.
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