Sales Management — Selling and Business Development in the 21st Century

Selling, prospecting and marketing in today’s world is very different than in the past few years and it is rapidly changing as we move into the future.  In the 21st century, selling and business development will require prospecting using the Internet, Relationship Selling, Network Selling and Investigative Selling. 

The marketing components that used to generate leads — product, performance, promotion and price — are no longer effective.  The tools for selling — lots of sales calls, lunches, golf and give-always — are expensive and inefficient.  In the 21st century, selling and business development require the following:

· Prospecting Using the Internet

· Relationship Selling

· Network Selling and

· Investigative Selling. 

Prospecting Using the Internet

Cold calling is dead.  It’s not productive.  It’s demoralizing.  It’s expensive.  Prospecting in the 21st century involves setting the stage for people and companies to find you so that you can solve their problems.  Flaunting advertisements and brochures is also a waste.  Everyone goes to the Internet these days to find solutions to their problems.  Therefore, the successful sales person will have to know how to use the Internet to generate qualified leads.  Corporations should have an Internet program, but territory and product-line sales people should have their own Internet marketing program as well.  And it’s not about having a website, it’s much more.  This is the passive side of prospecting.  This means that sales and business development professionals must set up an aggressive Internet Marketing process for their territory or product so that the people they want to do business with will come to them.

Relationship Selling

The other 21st Century prospecting element is the active side of prospecting.  This is where you use professional relationships to find out about problems or opportunities where you can assist.  There are so many opportunities for a sales person or account manager to discover within their existing and old/lost accounts.  Using professional relationships make this prospecting method effective and easy.

Sales and Business Development people with professional relationships are seen as a resource to protect or enhance buyers’ careers.  These people will be open to give information and coach you for cross-sells into their business unit, associate divisions and/or other product lines.  If you develop professional relationships, these people will give you qualified leads, buy more and more from you, and refer you to others. 

Network Selling

However, one has to learn how to use these relationships to get networked to others.  There are two focuses for successful selling in the 21 Century: 

1. You must spread like a virus in your customers’ organizations.  I use the phrase – move up and out.

2. You must get to the profit-center leaders, C-level executives, and senior staff of the business units you sell into and develop professional relationships with these people to effectively close sales, cross-sell and be seen as the preferred supplier.  Hanging out with the subordinates will never secure your position with your customers.

The only way you’ll move up and out and connect with the leaders is by using your professional relationships to network you to others.  People with whom you’ve developed credibility — your Golden Network as I call it — will help you if asked.  But if they are not asked for a referral and introduction to others, they will rarely offer to connect you with the leaders and others you should be meeting.  So you must ask for their help.

To make the networking process productive, what you ask for, how you ask for it, and where you look for help will make all the difference between getting to the right people and getting to useless people for your initiative.  This process is Network Selling. 

Investigative Selling

Once a sales or business development person connects with a person of value, using his or her network connection, the goal is to convert that individual into his or her Golden Network.  In other words the sales or BD person will have to develop a professional relationship with this new contact. 

People will consider another individual a professional relationship only if there is something in it for them.  So a sales or BD person needs to investigate the critical drivers of their target contact in order to learn what this person values that s/he can deliver.  Everyone is different and without knowing each individual’s triggers, a sales person will flounder or worst yet, become annoying.  But if the sales person can make the connections between the desires and the deliverables, a relationship can be established, and then this new contact will continue networking you up and out until you are connected to the leaders and their staffs.

The process for determining one’s triggers is Investigative Selling.  It requires knowing the questions to ask and how to ask them.  Although this sounds simple, it requires finesse, skill and confidence.  Investigative Selling also requires effective listening, and the ability to expose and entice.  Both of these are advanced skills never taught in schools and rarely taught in product or sales training.  So the successful sales or business development person will have to learn these Investigative Selling skills and be able to take them seamlessly to the street.

The sooner the sales or business development person masters these Internet Marketing, Relationships, Network and Investigative Selling Skills, the sooner sales will close and closing ratios rise.