The changing face of sales

Just like everything else about business, sales methods change on a regular basis. The way that we sell and reach customers and clients naturally reflects changes in our methods of communication and our technologies. The history of sales over the last several decades has changed dramatically, but the most dramatic changes have come since the advent of the internet and web-based advertising. Moreover, the trend towards globalization means that we have to consider ways of communicating with others who may have very different needs than the customers we have worked with in the past.

Customers have changed as well. Today, we as customers expect immediate, convenient, individualized service. If one organization doesn’t provide it, chances are we have another choice to turn to. This is why understanding customers is vital to overcoming the competition and learning what it will take to help your customer choose your product or service rather than the competition’s.

In the past, sales were dominated by standardized products and a salesperson who knew the product inside out. Nowadays, it is all about customizable products and services. It has also become more important for the salesperson to know the customer and his or her needs. In a business to business sales relationship, this means understanding the customer’s position in the marketplace and what their customers, suppliers, and partners need.

Below, you will see additional differences between traditional selling of the 1960s-1980s and modern selling.

Traditional Sales:

  • Seller offers delivery service, supporting information, and training as part of the supply
  • Supplier only provides the product or service – very limited support available.
  • Salesperson or supplier understands the customer’s needs.
  • Salesperson is the only one who deals with the customer.
  • The customer knows the product and services that they need.
  • The buyer is an isolated function such that his or her understanding of the organization-wide strategy is limited and not discussed before a transaction is made.

Modern sales:

  • Seller helps customer to identify and interpret market opportunities and assists in decision-making as part of the supply.
  • Supplier now adds value beyond the product or service – the supplier works to enable the customer’s business by providing education, assistance, expertise, and more.
  • Salesperson or supplier understands – and may even inform the customer on – the needs of the customer’s customers, suppliers, or other partners.
  • Customer may deal with anyone in the organization both before and after the sale.
  • The seller or supplier must know the customer’s business and be able to help them specify the type of product and services they need.
  • The seller needs to help the buyer understand how the purchase will help support the organization’s overall strategy in order for a transaction to take place.

You see how the way we sell has been impacted by the changes in our modern environment and customer expectations. From the first bartering transaction to today’s complex, contracted relationships, the way we interact with each other in sales transactions has changed – and will continue to change.