Selling in the digital era

How technology has changed the sales game, and your buyers

The temptation of the forbidden fruit is as old as time itself. The ancient story of Adam and Eve is quite possibly the first account of selling in history.

The Biblical couple lived in an oasis with everything they could possibly need, yet Eve was convinced by a snake to want something more, encouraging her to take that fateful bite of the forbidden apple.

Of course, we understand the art of selling successfully is helping the customer find the best solution to their problem, providing something they truly need. Clearly, the snake had his own interests in mind. And the negative connotation of salespeople as ‘snakes’ has remained to this day.

It goes hand in hand with the old saying of selling ice to eskimos. Some see that as a skill, but any successful salesperson will tell you, if that’s your focus, you’re way off the mark.

So how has the world of sales evolved since Eve indulged in that sinful bite that is said to have changed the course of history?

Today, we as consumers still want things we can’t have. We now live in a 24-7 sales environment, yet we’re increasingly hungry for more.

We’ve seen transactions evolve from a simple barter system, exchanging goods such as hay for milk, through to gold, cash, EFTPOS, online payments, and now cardless transactions like payWave, Apple Pay and even wearable cashless sales technology.

Bartering was an ideal example of one person helping another to find a solution to their problem, providing them with something they needed. But how did they determine the value of each item without currency? If one seller was trading sheep skins and the other was trading weapons, how did they know the worth of their products?

Ultimately, it came down to personal need and demand, making negotiation a crucial step in bartering. And in that respect, not much has changed.

One executive might be more than willing to pay $2000 for a new suit. Another might refuse to pay more than $200. Price often comes down to a personal perception of value.

The strategies and philosophies of industry thought leaders have also shaped the evolution of sales in more recent times.

Og Mandino famously authored The Greatest Salesman in the World, Grant Cardone penned bestsellers on leadership, entrepreneurship, finance and investing such as The 10X Rule, and Neil Rackman developed the world-renowned SPIN Selling method. These are just some of the great influencers of the sales world we know today – but the evolution continues.

The digital era has not only introduced new challenges and new opportunities, it has produced a whole new generation of thought leaders, such as Tai Lopez, who continues to dominate the teaching of social media sales techniques.

Consumers today have a world of information at their fingertips. With a few clicks of a button, they can become an informed buyer, armed with choices, reviews, and price comparisons.

Does that mean the modern salesperson is no longer selling, just simply validating what the buyer wants, and competing to offer the lowest price?

I don’t believe so.

One can argue the digital world has left buyers more confused and indecisive. There is no longer just one snake selling one apple, but endless options, and relentless temptation, creating a hunger that’s never quite satisfied.

Meanwhile, digital technology has created greater selling power, providing us with insights into buyer behaviour, patterns, trends and statistics, so we know who we’re selling to and what they want – sometimes before they know themselves.

Digital platforms like CRM’s reduce the workload involved, automating the process of selling while nurturing clients and effortlessly distributing content and information uniquely tailored to each individual.

While many foundations of successful selling remain the same, one major shift we have seen in recent years is the removal of human interaction in the shopping experience. Buyers can shop online from the privacy of their own home, self-checkout machines have been installed in major supermarkets and department stores, and Amazon-Go has revolutionised the real world shopping experience, allowing shoppers to simply walk in, take the items they want and walk out, automatically billing their Amazon account without any barcode scanning or lining up at all.

But, are the cracks beginning to show?

Grocery giant Coles has experienced the pitfalls of removing the human interaction, recently introducing a 12-item limit at the self-checkout and engaging security and even police to guard store exits because of a dramatic rise in theft, estimated at a $1.1-billion loss annually.

So while access to 24-7 shopping has made buying easier than ever before, selling techniques have advanced to the point many consumers aren’t always aware when they’re being sold to. This is not necessarily reflective of those age old ‘snake’ tactics, but a case of delivering what the consumer genuinely needs by knowing more about our ‘Adam and Eve’ than we ever have in the history of sales.

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