Up until the mid '80s and early '90s, salespersons held most of the trump cards. Generally, the buyer had to rely on the information that the seller brought to the table. To make decisions, the buyer would have to gather the various pieces of information from different sellers, sort them, then attempt to digest it all—and eventually make a decision to buy.

Still, the buyer held the deciding instrument... the checkbook. That entire cat-and-mouse process was relatively sluggish, sometimes painstaking, and often inefficient (like watching a movie in slow motion). And because of that tempo, the buyer's response was, often, "I want to think about it."

Now, let's consider the new "X Factors" in this ever-moving picture.

A New Buying and Selling Landscape

Any new sales transaction attempt can quickly begin or end with an introduction on a camera-equipped iPhone or iPad, or via a Skype video call. The Dick Tracy watch is here. Cold calling is dead. The suspense, time, and expense that go into an initial face-to-face meeting can be substituted by a couple of taps to get to an introduction.

Back in the day, buying and selling could take weeks (often months). Now, depending on the preparation and level of professionalism, success or failure can be measured immediately. Consequently, those who choose to sell in today's market using yesterday's tools will probably have a short career. However, those who embrace technology and use it in a win-win process should have the best opportunity to succeed.

Oddly, in our recent monitoring of various firms and industries, the training and techniques used frequently look like they did years ago. The emphasis is still on volume, power phrases, motivation, closing techniques, industry jargon, and redundant speakers... Go figure.

Is that still happening at your company?

Solution: If it is still happening, send your colleagues this article, and ask for a new approach from now on.

Social Networking Influences and Exposures

Because of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (among others), your profile, good or bad, is revealed to the world. Your professionalism (or lack of it) is on stage, in glaring detail.

Some advantages to having a social presence are that you can receive digital referrals, deliver camera-ready elevator pitches, show off your true credentials and accomplishments, gather written endorsements, and participate in real-time communication, among other new opportunities.

When competing on a world platform, however, a disadvantage is that there is nowhere to hide: You have to put forth your best effort.

Redefining the Transaction

Many believe that "the sale" will become obsolete at some point. They believe that buyers will become increasingly sensitive to sales techniques or manipulations that aim for their vulnerabilities.

Considering all the technology available to buyers, a transaction likely won't take place if buyers sense that they are the object of a "sale." Instead of being sold, buyers would rather understand the benefits they would gain from a purchase and on their own make a mature and educated decision.

An emphasis on "decisioning versus selling" has a good chance to emerge because of that predicament.

Solution: Become a decisioning specialist.  

Insurance Industry Dilemma (Example)

Excerpt From Zillion Dollar Thinking:

The Case for Decisioning vs. Selling

Traditionally, young agents have had to "learn the business" through arcane selling philosophies that are decades old. The result today is that these new folks go out the door with impressive hardware gadgets and colorful illustrations, but with a selling and communication platform that is way old. With that, the fresh agent is an easy target for an audience of rejection, confusion, and ultimate defeat (equaling high turnover and high expense).

So, the rookie goes to more seminars on selling, buys more books on closing techniques and motivation, and totes the party line of the mother company to survive while practicing a growingly inverted process.

While that's happening, the experienced agent is so busy satisfying compliance, rules and regulations, continuing education, and designing advance techniques while trying to keep the clientele he/she has worked so hard to acquire, that he can't be bothered with the bigger picture or mentoring.

And, so it goes. In all, this process is not coming into focus as a win-win proposition for this industry or its sales individuals. Question: Can this be only one of many such confusing industry methodologies? This industry is in desperate need of a hero (company and/or individual).

Paper vs. Digital (24/7): The Instant Marketplace

In the past, the above scenarios were smothered in paper, but now decisioning will take place at the speed of digital thought. Can that be good and bad? Yes, the digital market will move commerce faster, but at what expense and at whose peril?

Because of their abundant resources, buyers may at some point begin to believe that sellers aren't necessary. Consider how sellers have already been displaced or affected by online and indirect purchasing.

Solution: Providing measurable "added value" is the key.

Due Diligence, Suitability, and Fiduciary Relationships

Those X-factor categories aim to produce buyer protections from the "evil" salespeople and the unfair advantages (via "disclosures," fine print, etc.) that they conceal.

Those issues used to be more incidental (or a matter of "trust me") back in the old days, but they are priorities now and will increasingly become priorities with punitive consequences.

Solution: Stay closely linked to complementary industry professionals you can trust to keep you current.

Future Compliance, Regulations, and Intervention

Future policing will likely be more ominous and intimidating than ever, and we do not expect it to become less restrictive any time soon.

Sellers do not have the same influential voice they once did since government bailout activities and because of otherwise weakened authority, more critical rating agencies, and continued government intervention, among other factors.

Solution: Be vigilant and responsible.

Consider the Next 5-10 Years: Virtual Markets? Digital Transactions? "There is (or will be) an app for that..."

* * *

That is our current take on where we think the buyer/seller relationship is and where it may be headed. We can toss out most all of the dated paradigms, knowing that the profession of selling will be part of a new, level field.

The more we expose what may seem to be obstacles to success, the more we may have the opportunity to become the change agents of the future.

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Ernest Falkner III is a consultant and author of Zillion Dollar Thinking. He also publishes the Zillion Dollar Thinking blog.