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Authentic Selling – Oxymoron

September 28, 2016

Purchase FunnelOxymoron

“Wait,” you ask, “Are you suggesting that a person can’t be authentic and also sell?” Well, yes. And I’m not alone:

“Of course, the idea of using authenticity to sell something is kind of self-contradictory and ironic, because the whole point of being authentic is not being strategic but instead behaving in a way consistent with true underlying identity and values.” — Glenn Carol, Professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business

I think this runs deeper than simply parsing words. And it is also about trust, not just authenticity.

Purchase Funnel

I don’t care about sales funnels. I know them, and most of their variations, quite well. They are obsolete (or almost so, anyway). By definition, a sales funnel is focused on the salesperson and/or her company and their needs. That immediately destroys trust and definitely calls authenticity into question. From the purchaser’s point of view, trusted sources are friends, family and organic search results. Today, the savvy buyer pays no attention to purchased ads, sponsored search results or sales persons. They do not have the purchaser’s best interest at heart. They are busy making quotas and earning commissions.

The “Purchase Funnel,” on the other hand, makes a lot of sense to me. This is a view of the process that has evolved with the continued growth of technology and the internet. The sales process, I’m told, is about 60% completed by the purchaser before any contact is made with the vendor—regardless of price point. More accurately, according to this article, 57% of the sales process just disappeared!

Purchaser’s View

The “new” process is taking the purchaser’s view and understanding what is important. This means making sure that I, my product or service, and my company are found when the purchaser is taking care of the front end. I must build my brand as a trusted, go-to source for valid information that has the purchaser’s best interest at heart, not just my own. If you are “selling,” then you are automatically not to be trusted, because you obviously have your own interests at heart.

Sales Need Not Apply

So the bottom line, in my view, is that we need customer experience “experts,” not sales people. We need to be totally focused on providing value to our clients/prospects. If Wells Fargo, Mylan and Pharmaceutical companies pushing opioids took this view, they would avoid a lot of ethics issues. One should, I believe, be thinking hard about the system we’ve built—one that rewards greed and meeting internal goals rather than running ethical, customer focused businesses. I view this situation as a total failure of leadership.

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