Guest Column: Modern Salespeople Must Be Agile
For years, I have been noticing a trend in advertising sales which I have described as a transition from relationship selling to transactional selling. When I discuss this topic with publishing executives, most agree immediately, because they have observed the same change. However, some of the comments made in response to my article in the April issue of Publishing Executive led me to realize that I need to explain my thoughts more completely.
Some readers took my use of the term "transactional" as demeaning to the role of today's salespeople. This was not my intention—I meant to convey that the focus is moving to be more between the buyer and the product, instead of the buyer and the seller. Since it is hard to have a personal relationship with a product, "transactional" was the best description I could think of to define the seller's position. Friendliness is still important, and rapport does certainly help, but most buyers are no longer highly influenced by their personal relationships with the sellers. If nothing else, the accountability that comes from greater use of metrics and public discussions of advertising buys work to reduce cronyism.
Some readers mistook my use of the term "transactional selling" to mean direct sales through telemarketing and call centers. Although this kind of selling is most definitely transactional, it's not exactly what I meant. We are not advocating abandoning personal calls by advertising sales people in all, or even most cases, or making a wholesale shift to a call center, except in very specific situations. While there certainly is something to be learned from this type of selling in terms of discipline and quantitative goals, the campaign-oriented "dialing for dollars" approach requires a different mindset than longer-term key account development.
The larger point is that sellers need to sell the way the buyers want to be sold. This concept is as old as selling itself, but one which salespeople forget at their peril. The changing nature of the advertising buying process has resulted in buyers with all sorts of different expectations.