TALKING SALES 153: “Rebirth of the salesman”

death-of-a-salesman2                         “You’re company and product is not enough”  – Discussion with  John Smibert.

 

The future of the sales profession is in question. There are significant recent changes – or more to the point – paradigm shifts are occurring that should be disconcerting for many salespeople and their employers – if they are aware of them.

Cian McLoughlin3Cian McLoughlin, has written a book on this subject which intimates that the salesperson needs to be reborn in order to adapt, survive and thrive through the changes.

In this discussion I asked Cian to outline the key message of his book.

He told me, “the skills, the sales methodologies of old are no longer working. Customers and prospectivecustomers are looking for something very, very different from their salespeople and their account managers these days. I wrote the book really to highlight those areas of change and evolution in the sales process, and to help salespeople, young and old, to start to work on developing their own skills (in order to adapt).”

View or read the full interview with Cian below.

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Cian McLoughlin is a guru in win/loss analysis, he’s a speaker, an author, and a leading adviser to the sales fraternity.

See more of the ‘TALKING SALES’ series here

Interview

John: Hello! I’m with Cian McLoughlin again – welcome back, Cian!

Cian: Thanks, John!

John: Cian, in our last discussion you mentioned your book, ‘Rebirth of the Salesman’. Great book! Let’s talk about the book and why you wrote it. What is the key message you’re trying to get across?

Cbook-cover-1ian: ‘Rebirth of the Salesman’, I took the title from the famous play, ‘Death of the Salesman’. For me, what I’m seeing when I’m talking to customers, which I’m lucky enough to do on a regular basis, is that the skills, the sales methodologies of old are no longer working. Customers and prospective customers are looking for something very, very different from their salespeople and their account managers these days. I wrote the book really to highlight what those areas of change and evolution are in the sales process, and to help salespeople, young and old, to start to work on developing their own skills.

John: And I noticed there’s a lot of very good stories in there, plus a lot of stuff that other people have helped you write, brought their stories to the table to demonstrate that.

Cian: Yes, absolutely. I wouldn’t say it was about getting other people to write the book for me, but to some extent it’s nice to have different perspectives. What I tried to do is I brought some very well-known sales leaders, sat them down, interviewed them and asked them to tell me what they think is important in the salesperson of today but also the salesperson of the future. But I also went to the other side of the coin as well and spoke to a number of customers and asked them the same question.

John: I really liked that aspect to the book.

Cian: I think if we don’t get both sides of the coin, too often we get a blinkered view and we kind of reinforce our own perception of “Well, this is important and this is what salespeople are all about.” If we’re not validating that with our customers, then we’re missing the mark a little bit for me.

John: So if we talk about the bottom line of the book, the key message you want to get out to the sales world, salespeople, sales professionals, tell me what that is?

Cian: I think the key message for me is the things that you did in the past, the things that worked for you in the past aren’t necessarily going to work in the future. Because in the past you could almost be a little bit of a walking-talking sales brochure, right? We can’t do that anymore, because all of that information is widely available. What customers are looking for now is they’re looking for somebody who’s got a strong brand, who’s got the ability to challenge them, who understand their industry extremely well, who can overlay the product or service or technology in the context of the customer’s problems, and really challenge their ideas about where they need to get to. They’re looking for, it’s almost a cliché to say, a partner, but they are.  They’re looking for somebody who can really add value, and that requires us to develop different skills than the ones we have at the moment.

rebirth-partnerJohn: If you’re not adding value, all you’ve got is your product, and they can find out about the product, separately, without having you in the room.

Cian: They absolutely can. There’s a lot of also soft skills. We talk a lot these days about sales being commoditised, and that is happening. We have online sales platforms and web portals and all of that sort of thing, so the bottom end of the sales market is being chewed up with sales automation. There’s a small level of growth being predicted by Forrester and other organisations at the very top end of the B2B, where the sale is more complex, where it’s longer, but in order to be able to take advantage of that as a salesperson, your skillset needs to evolve, and that evolution is something that I cover in-depth in the book.

John: I loved the book, and I really think there’s a good message in there – thank you for sharing it with our audience!

Cian: It’s a pleasure, John – thanks for having me!

(See my review of Cian’s book here)

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More interviews with Cian McLoughlin:

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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.

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