Skills specific to the profession of selling have evolved. Each new selling skills model discussed below was influenced by changes occurring in the marketplace.
The initial research study identifying the 12 models was conducted during the late-nineties. This overview was further developed into an article and published in Selling Power magazine. Here is an updated version of this study.
"Make it a point to keep on the lookout for novel and interesting ideas that others have used successfully. Your idea has to be original only in its adaptation to the problem you are currently working on." - Thomas Edison
PERSONAL PREPARATION MODELS - Sales Professionals hear the word "no" more often in a single month than most people in other occupations do in a lifetime. Winning the mental game of selling is crucial.
1. 5-P Sales Model: This basic model was defined as "Product Pushing through Personality, Persistence, and Price." This was the land of the "born salesman." These people had an engaging personality and tenacious persistence. With a low price and playing a simple numbers game, they could make sales. Even today, people wake up in the morning and decide to go into selling with few or no skills. For them, mental conditioning is essential.
2. Mental Conditioning Sales Model: People in sales hear the word "no" more often in a few months than people in other occupations do in an entire lifetime. When salespeople lose their enthusiasm and passion for what they sell, their prospects respond similarly. Mental conditioning is to selling as physical conditioning is to sports. Significant advancements have been made from the short-lived motivation sessions. Today Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Psychological Kinesiology, and other methods are available to build stamina.
INTERPERSONAL SKILLS MODELS - Relationships are vital in most selling situations. Understanding the customer's interaction style will prevent miscommunication.
3. Relationship Sales Model: This model was based on building a relationship by calling on the same prospect repeatedly over an extended period. The right amount of empathy is a crucial indicator of success. The salesperson and the buyer get to know each other better on both professional and personal levels. At the core of this model is the ability to cross boundaries, but not violate them.
4. Personality Styles Sales Model: The importance of relationships in selling fostered the use of psychological assessment instruments to identify key personality characteristics. Based on the recognition that different personality types prefer their particular style of interaction. Currently, using personality characteristics to determine who makes the best salesperson is in vogue.
As an Associate School Psychologist, I've given tons of these tests and can safely say that every personality can be successful, but not selling everything. Personality traits do play a role and should be matched with what is being sold, who it's being sold to, and how it's being sold.
PRESENTATION BASED MODELS - Focus on using the presentation portion of the sales interaction to do the actual selling. These were the first models focusing on practical skills and techniques of selling.
5. Closing Sales Model: Introduced in the 1950s, heavy emphasis was placed on presentation skills, trial closing and overcoming objections, then going for the final major closing sequence. In its pure form, this model was and still is today, most commonly used in high-pressure sales.
6. Problem-Solving Sales Model: In the early 1960s, Sales Professionals were taught to ask open and closed-ended questions to probe for problems. Once discovered, solutions were then presented. In today's highly competitive markets, this model tends to elicit the "price" objection.
7. Value-Added Sales Model: This model emerged in the late 1960s to counteract the tendency of the Problem-Solving Model to cause the price objection to be raised. When the price objection is anticipated, incentives are "added on" to the primary product/service as a means to make up the difference in customer perceived value versus price.
8. Consultative Sales Model: This model was introduced in the early 1970s. The focus was to determine how the Sales Professional could lower the customer's operating costs and increase the customer's ability to generate revenues. This model requires that you have an extensive track record and reliable proof of results. Consequently, it had limited applications for new companies, new products, or new services.
APPLICATIONS MODELS - Developed during the 1980s with updates to the strategies for implementation during the 2000s. These models were developed in response to special selling situations involving buyers who are both inside and outside the organization and more extensive projects that required significant investments during the sales process on the part of the selling organization. They assume the person already has sales skills.
9. Partnering Sales Model: The partnering model is not a "legal" partnership; instead, it is a part of the "Total Quality Management" process many U.S. Companies are pursuing. Partnering is usually done at the highest levels within the seller's and customer's organizations. To successfully partner, the Sales Professional must understand the needs of the "customer's customers." Collectively, the seller and customer build and exchange business plans related to the product/service specific areas.
10. Team Selling Model: Although it has been around for many years, this process involves many people at various levels and specialties interacting with a similar group at the same level and specialization in the prospect company. The Sales Professional is primarily engaged in communications coordinating the "quarterback" role. Roles, boundaries, procedures, and communications are paramount knowledge and skills for this model.
11. Complex Sales Model: Long lead times and big-ticket items, coupled with multiple decision-makers, both internal and external to the client company, i.e., banks, citizens groups, governments, etc., characterize the profile of a selling organization utilizing the "complex sales model." The primary focus of this model is to define the strategic approach to the account.
VALUE SELLING MATRIX MODELS - In a value selling process, the actual selling is done during the interview phase of the sales interaction, rather than the traditional presentation phase. Value selling models are specifically designed to prevent or significantly reduce price pressure.
12. Value Selling Model: This model introduced in the late 1980s was developed as the result of reduced product/service differentiation, competitor induced price pressure. Consultative Value Selling models are still today, the primary base model for selling and negotiating.
1990 AND BEYOND: The computer age has and continues to bring about significant change in how sellers track sales and interact with decision-makers who make different decisions about a purchase.
During the 1990s, Contact Management (CM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software was the focus of the sales process. When they were designed to help the salesperson make sales and help customers, their implementation succeeded. But when they were perceived as management control processes, implementation often faltered, and half the time outright failed.
In the 2000s, selling at "C" level became the strategy de jure. Many programs, however, overshot the appropriate level to call on teaching sellers to focus unnecessarily on the top levels. Further, a large number of salespeople did not have the necessary personal attributes or social skills to sell at these higher levels. Over time, these strategies are now widely taught to salespeople capable of interacting comfortably at this level in larger corporations.
The decade of 2010 is focused on using social media for marketing, prospecting, and selling. Specialized Apps with CRM capabilities enable salespeople to access up-to-date customer order information on their mobile devices.
Today, diagnostic sales strategies are becoming more dominant. For example, identifying the objections that stop and stall the sales, with a focus on prevention and preemption, instead of responding.
Validating the steps in the sales process to identify the pattern of steps that, when missed, cause sales to fail and identify the pattern of steps that, when completed, usually result in a win. And finally, most companies want a consistent base level of selling skills that can be applied to a defined sales process. Here are the steps, now do you have the skills to do them?
2020 COVID brings a new set of challenges, not necessarily to the model of selling, but rather to how the steps in the sales process are implemented. How can you establish trust and rapport without in-person contact? Can you do it over the phone, email, text, website, and so on? Of course, you can. Every step can be done without in-person contact, and there is no shortage of consultants, Web-based Training, and books available for those who want to learn.
THE FUTURE: The question remains, "What must you believe before you buy something?" Until human beings change in fundamental psychological ways of buying, they will continue to feel the need to believe certain things (need, value, trust, etc.) about the seller, the product and service, and the benefits they will get when they make the purchase. It doesn't matter how you or the buyer establish them; they just have to be done.
Four bestselling authoritative ebooks all salespeople should own:
1. Strategic Sales Plan (steps in the sales process for you to validate).
2. Value Selling Strategies P.R.O.S.P.E.C.T. Model (easy to learn, remember, and use consultative value selling model).
3. Objection Free Selling (find the gaps in your sales process and sales model that are letting the objections slip in and plug the hole).
4. The Hunt: Prospecting for New Business (all methods can be used without in-person contact)
5. Select this link to connect and follow Dr. Robert "Bob" DeGroot, MEd, DCH on LinkedIn.