Today’s guest blogger, Suzanne Franks of Axiom Sales Force Development, has over 20 years of sales and marketing experience in local media. She began her career at Young & Rubicam in New York City as a media planner and buyer. She joined Verizon, which became Super Media, and began her service helping small & medium sized businesses grow via print, online, mobile and social media solutions. Throughout her career she has held various sales, sales management, sales force development, compensation planning, marketing and executive positions.
I am a “professional of the eighties”. That’s when I entered the sales force and began my long and rewarding career in local media sales. I attended 6 weeks of sales training before being released to the field. While we learned the features and benefits of our product, and how to submit an order accurately, the majority of the time was spent learning and practicing needs based selling in context to the product we were selling, yellow pages. We were taught to discover our client’s needs, craft solutions that would meet those needs and prepare a presentation so the client could understand our value proposition. And all local media, radio, television, newspapers where taught to do the same. It worked great! Our clients businesses grew I was making a terrific living, and our company was succeeding.
Well now it is 2013, and the needs satisfaction selling methodology of the eighties no longer produces the results it once did, for any industry. Why? Because as we have all experienced in our professional and personal lives the world has changed dramatically and forever.
Competition has notably increased. Both the numbers of local media providers and media choices have increased tenfold, and the trend is predicted to continue.
Additionally, many of the providers are selling similar, if not the same digital media products. And this proliferation of providers, choices and commoditization is not unique to the media industry.
So when most providers can meet the needs of the client, how does a client know which is BEST at helping them accomplish their goals. This is the help clients are looking for. This is the catalyst for installing a new sales methodology that keeps pace with how clients want to buy. If sales professionals cannot provide this help, the client’s decision quickly defaults to price since no clear differentiation among the solutions is evident.
In order to maximize today’s buying environment the needs based selling methodology must evolve from simply meeting their needs, to helping clients establish decision criteria to determine which SOLUTION is BEST in terms of product, support and the company that will provide it. This will help them differentiate amongst what appears to be like options. It must evolve from needs based selling to differentiated decision advising or consulting.
We owe it to our clients to help them establish these criteria if we expect to build a trusting relationship with them. When we make the commitment to transition from needs based selling to differentiated decision advising we truly earn the title of advisor or consultant that so many sales organizations have merely bestowed upon themselves.
Sales organizations that have evolved to differentiated decision advising enjoy increased revenue, margins, customer satisfaction and loyalty and decreased sales turnover.
Don’t you owe it to your clients, sales force and shareholders to bring your sales methodology into the 2010’s? I would love to hear your comments or feedback. Please email me at AXIOM Sales Force Development. And if you’d like we will be happy to share, at no charge, the key questions we use that will help your clients develop meaningful decision criteria. My email address is sfranks@AXIOMsfd.com.