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Generosity and Authenticity

December 30, 2009

Readers of this blog know that I have postulated that the model for high end sales has changed; accelerated away from the traditional models to a trust based model. This also applies to networking; no selling, only building a trusting relationship. A colleague questioned me recently as to why I thought this was the case. Is it really simply the economy that’s driving this change? My response that was “no, it’s more than just the economy, although the economy is certainly accelerating the change.” So what are the drivers?

Economic ShiftI think there are many reasons why we’re moving away from the old “product/feature” or “needs/benefits” selling for all except the most commodity types of products. The internet is replacing salespeople and telemarketers in many of these cases. I believe we are and will be spending most of our time in “consultative/relationship” selling and migrating even more to “trust based” selling for our key customers and clients. A few of the reasons for this reframing of the sales process seems to be (a) less consumerism (for common commodities) thus a more sophisticated level of sales is left, (b) on-line purchasing is minimizing interaction with salespeople for commodity purchases and research, ( c) the economy is limiting what people and companies are spending so each purchase made is scrutinized and (d) social networking is training us to give value in our relationships – without expectation of quid-pro-quo.

This last reason is what I’m thinking most about these days. In face-to-face networking, whether you’re in transition or in search of business clients, you are likely finding that you MUST first provide value to those you meet rather than “ask for the order.” This concept, not an new one, hit the Wall Street Journal This Morning podcast recently, and it is sure good to have some validation in what I’ve been proposing to those I mentor and coach in the business community. The point is that from Social Networking sites where the protocol is to deliver value and NOT sell or self-promote, to the WSJ advocating the same generous approach to networking for your career we are being taught that unless someone authentically has our best interest at heart and not just their own, we should avoid “doing business” with them. How do we know if someone “has our best interest at heart?” Clearly, it is that they are focused on us and how they can help us rather than being focused on themselves and asking us to help them or buy from them. Think about this for a minute. If I am focused on telling you about wonderful me or focused on getting you to place the order with me, then how can I possibly have your best interest at heart? This concept is put succinctly in the saying “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

I am beginning to think that one of the more powerful catalysts for changing how we interact with each other (in person or remotely through the media) is being shaped by the etiquette we are taught in our Social Networking interactions. In their excellent book on Social Media Marketing, Friends with Benefits, Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo make it clear that marketers and those blogging or posting on others’ blogs or interacting with bloggers have to add value before they have the right to request assistance with their marketing program. What comes through clear (at least in my mind) is that “selling” is taboo in almost all cases.

So what are you seeing as the major reason for the move to trust based selling? Do you agree there is a general and pronounced aversion to the “old” selling models? How do you feel when someone posts a “solicitation” in a comment on your blog? How do you feel when you are constantly “sold” on a blog? Does this translate to how you interact with colleagues and professionals in your business life?

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