We are seeing the evolution of salespeople. It is no secret that many of our sales professionals are aging out, they are retiring or moving out to that great golf course in the sky. As they exit the premises so do some age old practices that go with them.
In our own sales lifetimes, we have seen the demise of some of the sales techniques we were exposed to, from the three martini lunches of the sixties, the so called business golf outings of the seventies and eighties to the elaborate long dinners of the nineties and beyond.
So have the gimmes of those days. The same people that claimed their corporate policies would not allow them to accept a free lunch at a 99 Restaurant in New England were more than happy to accept the “Christmas Card Catalogs” that I used to hand deliver to them every year…and these were defense contractors! If you’re too young to know about these, allow me to explain. You dropped off a catalog full of goodies to your buyer. These catalogs had different levels of prizes you could win. Things as small as transistor radios to snow tires to color TV’s. Then the buyer was given a code to use that also defined what level of gift he could choose from and choose that prize to be delivered to their private homes in a few weeks. Don’t you get it?
Now let’s talk about their successors, the new breed of sales professionals. Let’s start with the fact that we have to stop using the pronoun “he” since there are as many “she’s” as there are “he’s” out there today. And please let me say that she’s better at sales. They are smarter, more dedicated, and more passionate (side bar: 60% of this year’s college grads are women and the ratios even scarier…if you’re male). The women entering the workforce in all markets and all businesses are better equipped for success than their same aged male counterparts.
Yikes! I hear you saying all the way up here in the most eastern of these United States.
I have now worked with a number of young women in our industry. And their approach to business and in this case sales is worth analyzing.
After watching these young ladies work as either direct salespeople or independent sales representatives, here are some of the characteristics that make them more effective and successful sales people of their generation, or even other older generations.
- They have a plan: Every one of them I have talked with has a definite plan for growing their prospecting, lead generation, customer acquisition and growth.
- They have a process, and they stick to it. They have developed their own unique process for getting things done and they stick to it, and yes, they measure their progress as well.
- They know their product cold. They know the company they are selling for, what they are good at and the kind of customers they are best suited to work with.
- They know their own capabilities. They can talk the talk and walk the walk when it comes to being living, breathing experts about their own company, its products, and services.
- They do their homework: They research the accounts even before they make that first phone call. They have all the information they need about the target customer. This includes knowing what those target customers need.
- They are empathetic: They are able to walk in the customer’s shoes. They are able to understand the customers’ problems enough to help solve them. They are customer nourishers.
- They are experts at all things social media. They know how to use Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to a high level and they know how to brand themselves using these social media tools.
- They don’t know everything. They have open minds and are willing to learn and listen to learn new things. They are open to suggestions if they feel they will benefit from them.
- They are great at networking. Nobody can connect better than women. They work at helping one another succeed. And they are not too proud to help one another. They believe in the spirit of a rising tide lifts all boats, while we men believe in a more zero sum game.
- They are adaptable. This could be the most important tool in their kit. They are able to adapt to changing situations. They welcome the future because they are the future… and they know it.
- They have the hunger of the underdog. They know they have to work harder, that there really is a ceiling that they have to break and that they have to be better to break that ceiling.
- And finally they are more creative and determined and pliable and flexible and willful than we are so that they are always able to, as my own mother, no slouch herself, used to say when I faced a problem…”Find a way. there is always a way to solve your problem.” And that’s pretty good common sense.
Disclaimer: My apologies in advance to my male counterparts whose egos might have been bruised by this column.