If like me, you have been in sales for pushing on 15 plus years now, which means I am closer to being 40 years old than I would care to admit, then I hope the answer to the above is all three. In fact, I hope that actual answer when someone asks what your profession is, you just say sales.

Those of you who know me & have seen me present, or read my blogs, will know that I actually have a problem with all of these terms. I understand why they are coined, to differentiate from the "traditional" sales methods. However, if you strip this all back, at the end of the day, the process remains inherently the same, the art of sales remains the same as it always has, build trust with your buyer, a good value proposition which is articulated better than the competition and work with the client to a solution. 

What has changed is how social/digital has changed the way we buy, and our expectation of what a buying experience should actually be in a business to consumer world. Thank you Amazon. This is now moving at a pace into the business to business world. 

The quoted article cites that customer loyalty is on a revolutionary decline - I would argue that this not the case, customers expect a much better buying experience, both online and offline - as CEB Gartner cites in their research, customer loyalty is driven by the buying experience - the vendor needs to be able to  :

  • Offer Unique & Valuable perspectives in the market
  • Helps me navigate alternatives
  • Helps me avoid potential landmines
  • Educates me on new issues & outcomes
  • Service Provider is easy to buy from
  • Service Povider has widespread support through out the organisation

The above are just some of the examples cited by CEB Gartner as what drives a positive buying experience - stated by buyers of B2B services or products.  So it is not necessarily on the decline, it is now part of our decision making process in how & why we buy. Bad experience, we are likely to go elsewhere. Or tell the world about it. Nothing really new here, other then the pace at which this can happen - and granted we have more choice.

The bullets listed is what I did, or at least tried to do 15 plus years ago when the only channel I had was the phone. Fast forward today - I still do this, but in many forms - blogs, videos, speaking events, face to face meetings, phone calls. I also use data from tools such as Sales Navigator, Website analytics, Microsoft to help me in making decisions on what I should do next in my sales cycles.

I understand that my buyers are buying differently, have an expectation on what their buying experience should be, hence I have changed my approach to how I sell, using the modern tools at my disposal - but at the end of the day, I am just a sales person. Digital, Social, Relationships - I don't see these as seperate channels or behaviours, it is just sales at the end of the day. Sales in the 21st Century.

For the most part, when we work with clients, it is all about the people - win hearts & minds, then process - build the new way to sell using the tools available today, than add the layer of technology - and in this I include social/digital. This is no different to when I was coached on how to cold call in my first foray into sales.

Maybe 2018 will herald the rise of sales and selling in the 21st Century. Maybe.