By Chris Bucholtz
A few years ago, I did a webinar with some respected thought leaders in the area of sales about the impact data was having on selling. No one was willing to use the term “data-driven selling” – that was too much for sales people’s sensibilities. But the guests were willing and able to admit that the new way of selling revolved around relationships and the only way to increase sales productivity while at the same time building stronger relationships was to rely on data – and, more specifically, rely on data that was organized and ready to use.
Fast forward to the deja vu I experienced in August this year, when I had a chance to moderate another webinar, this time with Tony Hughes, SugarCRM’s country manager for Australia and New Zealand. Tony’s an author – he’s written a couple of books on selling topics, including the well-reviewed the Joshua Principle: Leadership Secrets of RSVPselling. Tony is all about the relationship in sales and so it was no surprise to hear Tony say that the key to selling still resides in the sales person and the need to establish trust and value in the prospect’s mind.
But, with my CRM hat still perched atop my head, my mind keeps drifting back to the data. The information you know about a customer is the secret weapon that helps you build rapport and leapfrog ahead of your competition (who are also desperate to gain that relationship advantage). Sales departments are really in a data arms race, based not around who has spent the most but around who has spent the best on technology to arm their sales staff with that precious data.
But it’s not just about the technology and the data. As my other writing specialty has demonstrated, it’s not the plane but the pilot who wins the fight – selling skill plays a major role. The sales person is still the make-or-break variable in the sales equation. Tony made that point eminently clear in tracing how sales has evolved into what it is today. The relationship and the sales person’s need to cultivate it is one of the few constants.
Before the webinar, Tony wrote up his thoughts in a white paper that we were proud to publish under the CRM Outsiders banner. It’s called “The Evolution of Professional Selling;” you can get a copy of it here and, once you’ve downloaded it, you can participate in our brief survey to determine just how exactly sales pros are selling today. Not only will your participation be helpful (we’ll publish the results, so you can get a feel for where you are along the evolutionary curve) but the first 200 to take the survey will get a copy of Tony’s book in the quickly-becoming-quaint print format.
Selling will always be more an art than a science, but it’s a poor artist who doesn’t take advantage of the science around him to create better art. Check out Tony’s white paper (and webinar, and book while you’re at it) to see how neatly technology and sales talent can dovetail together.