Reducing the friction of selling: Try to view sales through a whole new lens

Shouldn’t selling be easier than it is? Those on the outside might reply with a dismissive smirk: “How hard can it be?” But those of us on the inside – despite sales’ reputation as a cushy way of life – see it differently.

And by easier, I don’t mean a more pleasant and comfortable experience for salespeople. I mean a more streamlined and efficient path to a decision; a decision by the customer on whether to move forward with us, or by us on whether – and how – to continue moving forward with the customer. Because that’s ultimately all that selling really is.

In other words, shouldn’t the path to one of those decisions be a lot more frictionless than it is?

And that need for a more frictionless path exists across the selling spectrum, from our demand creation efforts to competitive engagements to retention and growth initiatives.

There’s massive friction in sales

Yet, and for no lack of trying, the path remains about as frictionless as flypaper! Why, for example, in an activity that’s been around since we humans started walking upright, do most of us engaged in it still feel like:

  1. We want customers to think of us as anything but a “salesperson?”
  2. Prospects’ defenses go up almost before we say “hello” on cold calls?
  3. The customer is doing us a favor just by meeting with us?
  4. Customers – deliberately or otherwise – withhold, filter and distort information?
  5. We made our case flawlessly, but the customer is still skeptical?
  6. We try to be real and authentic, but customers seem to take it the wrong way?
  7. We have no business asking for information that is every bit our business to seek?
  8. Customers take action only when they darn well feel like it?

That’s a lot of friction! Friction that puts massive drag on our results and our ability to predict them. And it’s friction that, I believe, has no parallel in other business disciplines.

Given how long sales has been evolving as a profession, wouldn’t you think it should be, well, a bit further along?

Isn’t there a better way?

A new lens

I believe there is! And (as many readers know) I logged nearly a million miles working in the trenches – in a way that will probably never be duplicated – driven by that belief. The answer, as it turns out, has been all but hiding in plain sight; all I needed was a new lens – the lens of a microscope – to see it.

Because for so long we’ve looked at sales only through one lens – the lens of the naked eye – our view may have grown narrow, limiting itself to aphorisms like “sales is all about relationships,” “sales is a process,” or “sell solutions, not products.” None of those are any too helpful when it comes to making sales more frictionless.

Perhaps that’s why corporate America has all but thrown its hands in the air. And why not? Who has a greater right to ask if there’s a better way than the people who have to live with the famously unpredictable nature of sales?

And this is where it starts to get interesting. Because, without exception, that natural, unrelenting quest to improve something always leads to a desire to figure out what is really happening at the most granular level: to view the thing – literally or metaphorically – through the lens of a microscope.

There’s a world of sales we never knew existed

And that microscopic view usually opens us up to worlds we never knew existed – or thought we could reach. We discovered such worlds in medicine, microprocessors, and metallurgy – in the case of the literal microscope – by magnifying the basic elements of those disciplines.

Likewise, every important business process – in the case of the metaphorical microscope – has undergone high levels of magnification. Transportation and logistics, supply chain and manufacturing, even fast food, have all been subjected to microscopic scrutiny, opening up worlds in those disciplines that we never knew existed and showing us more frictionless ways to approach them.

Strangely, though, in sales we’ve never looked at what was really happening at the microscopic level. And that’s particularly strange since selling is probably the oldest business process in human history. Or maybe that’s the very reason we never bothered to magnify it; maybe we’ve all just inherited a belief that “sales really is just sales;” that the eight frustrations I alluded to earlier are simply realities we have to live with.

But it isn’t…and we don’t!

A collision in sales

And if you’re open to viewing sales through a whole new lens, I will show you, in the coming months, how three forces of human behavior – behaviors that are invisible to the naked eye but clearly visible under the microscope – collide in every buyer/seller interaction.

And that collision of behaviors creates friction – natural resistance that causes customers to “naturally resist” doing the very things we need them to do to help us arrive at a decision: share information with us, act on our action steps and embrace our differentiation (no matter how well our value proposition might have helped them understand it).

I hope you will stay tuned.

– Jerry Stapleton is the founder of Delafield-based Stapleton Resources LLC (www.stapletonresources.com). He is also the author of the book, “From Vendor to Business Resource.”

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