Updated: Mar 10, 2020
Let's start with an exercise. Go to your favorite online bookstore and search for titles containing the word sales or selling. Then, compare that to the number of publications about any other business unit. Overwhelmingly, more books, articles, blogs, etc. are written about how to sell effectively (a quick search on Amazon produced 15,000+ books about professional selling). That's because these books sell (pun intended). But that means everything you've read on sales has been read by other sales teams as well.
In my role, I sell and I get sold to. I get the experience of seeing the sales process from both ends of the spectrum. I'll log onto LinkedIn, read a new InMail I received from someone selling something, and then read an article on LinkedIn that spells out step by step nearly every word in that message. Where has the originality and authenticity gone in sales?
I recently saw a post on LinkedIn claiming new research putting together the world's greatest sales presentation and by simply commenting 'yes', you could get a copy of this career-changing slide deck. The post had over 200,000 comments! That means over 200,000 salespeople are going to start using the same template for a slide deck. Let alone the fact that some of those 200,000 are in leadership roles and will train their entire sales force to use this template.
Buying behavior adjusts to selling behavior. Your prospects are already becoming numb to the techniques and processes you have read about and implemented. The easiest and most familiar example is car buying. The first time you bought a car, a pushy salesperson may have pressured you into a decision before you were truly ready. "What's it going to take to get you driving off the lot in this car today?" Once you are exposed to those pushy techniques, you will be more apt to overcome them on your second car buying experience and even more so on the third. Now imagine someone in a corporate procurement department who has spent the last 30 years evaluating vendors and making buying decisions. That person has probably been exposed to every sales technique you've ever read about.
Particularly in larger sales, your prospects are doing some research on your company and may have already spoken with a competitor by the time you speak to them. Today, with all the advances in marketing and reaching buyers through multiple channels, prospects are more informed than ever. They can enter the sales cycle much closer to a decision than ever before. At that point, the most important information a prospect is gathering is about YOU, the salesperson, not the product or the company. They want to be able to understand and trust you. After all, if they are making a major purchasing decision that their reputation depends on, they will want an informative, honest, trustworthy individual. Whether you're in B2B or B2C sales, SMB or enterprise, all sales is H2H (human to human).
So, what can we, as salespeople, do to avoid being 'just another sales guy' making 'just another sales presentation'? The answer is the same as the advice your mother gave you before your first date and it's simple, "just be yourself". Anything else would be disingenuous. People respond well to a genuine, honest, engaging human connection, not a scripted, rehearsed, regurgitated sales pitch.
In the selling process, it is key to differentiate yourself and your product from the competition. Transparency, honesty, and trust are somehow dying characteristics of the sales process. So believe it or not, acting with humility and being likable are actually ways to differentiate yourself against your competitor's salespeople.