Evolution of the Salesman - Comparing Past Sales to Today

By: Joe Cirillo   |   13 Nov 2014

Over the past four and a half decades of my sales career, I’ve seen many changes in the sales industry.

In the beginning, sales people were known for their their ability to fast-talk a customer, and their top priority was strictly closing the deal.

When I first got into the sales industry, I went through the Xerox selling course. It taught us the most basic selling skills, like asking open and closed questions, and how to “read” a customer.

Being able to read your potential customers was vital, because as a salesman, you needed to know precisely when to ‘go for the kill’.

It was a sales technique similar to looking at prey through the eyes of a lion - if you wanted to eat, you needed to know exactly when to strike.

Forty years ago, sales people held all the cards. They knew all the facts, and the buyer had to actively choose whether or not to believe him.

But as years went by, the general public caught onto the lion/prey technique, and sales people were pegged as sleazy and dishonest, never to be trusted. While that isn’t the case with all sales people, all it took was a few bad sales people to give the good ones a tarnished reputation that we’re still struggling to change.

Selling is an ever-changing art form. A sales person must be willing and able to adapt to ongoing changes. Why? Because over the years, buyers have become better informed and more demanding, forcing salespeople to raise their game.

There is less room now for the older “go for the kill” approach, because customers are more educated and have so many more resources available to fact check, shop, and compare.

In order to stay alive, the sales industry has been forced to develop a huge focus on customer service, because people are smarter and they’re doing research on the internet.

Before a good sales person should approach a prospective client, they must first complete thorough research on their prospect’s business. They can’t just walk into a client’s office and fly by the seat of their pants. They need to go in prepared with knowledge, strategic insight and a genuine belief in the product or service they’re selling.

In addition to knowing the product better, salesmen need moral qualities which are shortly and completely covered by the Golden Rule. Sincerity is vital. If you aren’t sincere, meaning if you walk into a potential customer’s office without honest intentions, the customer will be able to tell. The customer’s interest must be paramount, because if it’s not, your customer will know.

The salesmen of today who are willing to put the customer first will definitely gain a customer’s trust and appreciation. In the end, only those genuine sales people will be rewarded with long-term, loyal happy customers.