Chapter 3 Yesterday’s versus Today’s Sales Environment – Innovative Selling


Yesterday’s versus Today’s Sales Environment

Selling back in the seventies to the nineties was simple. You were taught the basics of the product and took it out to customers you thought would buy. The method was uncontrolled and amateurish. Today’s selling model requires a great deal of comprehensive application along with sound product training to meet even the basic needs of today’s discerning consumer.

Generally, when a company replaces a sales employee during the recruitment process, so much time has elapsed that relevant data, sales, customer notes, and any version of what had transpired between the organization and the customer have long been lost.

During my first training stint, I filled a national sales manager position for a dental company, and part of my role was product training. My skills in training were practically nonexistent, and I was embarrassed to ask for help and so had to use my wits and get on with the job. Fortunately, it worked for me, but I was frustrated that there was no effort to train the trainer.

Record keeping was another clumsy process, and although it did improve with a better card system, it had only one set of records and no backup information for the company, leaving the organization vulnerable when a disgruntled employee decided to leave.

Today’s Sales Template

We have at our fingertips an incredible plethora of CRM—Customer Relationship Management—tools, such as digital data recording, customer profile data, a list of where our customers are, how they buy, and their buying patterns. The modern sales professional is given this and more for each sales position, and CRM provides us with a customer listing, full interaction activity, sales records, opportunities, funnel forecasts, and so forth.

So Why Is It Still Difficult to Sell in the Modern Age?

The immediate response to this question is that the competition is so intense, the competitors so cheap, that I’m at a loss to compete.

Company selling support to the global organization is based on forward sales predictions and new product releases. By providing the selling tools just noted, they ask, what else you need to be successful.

The majority of global organizations provide, as you may well know, some pre-appointment job description, selling tools such as a laptop, a phone, a tablet, a car, induction, and basic product familiarization. The practice of throwing him or her the product and seeing what they can do with it is obsolete. Today’s global organizations do have a new training process in place, some of which is good, while the rest is not so good.

When we compare our industry with selling new cars, I am told there are only a few car manufacturers who allow their salespeople to begin selling without passing a product sales course first.1

In addition, occupation health and safety of sales staff are regarded as a nonexistent subject. Human resources divisions either have nothing to point to in terms of a policy governing the safety of sales staff, selling in the marketplace or show a lack of genuine interest. The case with internal staff, however, presents a completely different scenario. Companies consider the safety of salespeople working at night very low in priority. In the event of an unfortunate incident resulting in an injury or sexual assault, there would be no “company safety policy” to fall back on; the company would be an easy target for legal or Police action.

Information Overload and How to Avoid the Problem

Do We Manage These Distractions or Not?

When we embark on a new job, we are overloaded with this dilemma, but, eventually, however, we become accustomed to it. Many new salespeople who have been only a week into the job suffer the onset of physical symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, and many more psychological issues. This settles down in time, however, and any festering issues tend to be pushed back into the corners, awaiting an answer in time.

Current research has found that if a salesperson tries to process too much information within a limited time frame, he or she is likely to experience a phenomenon that is termed as salesperson’s information overload (SIO), which is detrimental to sales performance. The overload is far greater than what I term “distraction”; it tends to crowd the mind, hampering the performance of the more important functions. Perhaps in a similar way, salesperson burnout could be partly linked. A very good example is the company that has induction stretching over an entire week. After spending the first 2 to 3 days listening to repeated presentations, by Friday your eyes are glazed over, and you’re too tired to listen to anything.

I call this temporary information overload, which is generally fixed by a good “stiff drink” and a weekend off. This overload and tiredness are just the forerunner of complete information overload. It is important to recognize these initial symptoms and prepare or avoid the cause. One good practice is not to look at your personal Facebook messages and so on during the day, as this only adds to the technical overload you don’t need. You can carry a second phone to avoid this incessant problem.2

Information Overload—Here Are Some Symptoms to Look Out for

  • The salesperson is often confused because he or she has access to too much information.
  • The prospect is confused because scientific research proves that humans simply cannot process excess information, especially if it is not logically structured, takes too long, or is unclear.
  • The worst situation is that the overloaded sales person is unable to tell important and necessary information from excessive fluff. As a result, the salesperson struggles with the task of bringing important information to the table during a sales discussion and alienates the customer very quickly.
  • The overloaded salesperson may suffer a breakdown in their professional or personal lives.
  • Too much work is expected of you.
  • Are they able to identify what is most important to the prospect and present a strong, unique solution that will meet their greatest need?

I would go so far as to say that all of us in professional sales today are suffering sales information overload. How we categorize items of information according to their relative importance is up to us. If you can’t do this, seek help from your sales leader to distinguish what is important and what is not.

To provide a rosy picture of today’s sales environment, especially around global selling companies, is just short of disgraceful. Admittedly, there are many companies that try harder than others, but when speaking to research interviewees, one finds that the story is astonishingly different than one imagines.

Some companies do get it right. Research demonstrates that their employees show a higher than normal degree of satisfaction than their competitive players.

Salesperson Respect in Today’s Industry

Have we improved the image of the modern professional corporate seller?

Having dealt with various doctors over the last 49 years, I would describe the early experience as a “tenuous relationship.” During the 1980s and 1990s, respect for salespeople did improve as the industry was advancing rapidly in technology. This did undergo a setback during the pharmaceutical time of Doctors complaining about poor conduct and, unfortunately, the poor respect issue rubbed off on the surgical device sector too.

For example, the introduction of CT/MRI scanning, anesthesia, implantable devices, stapling, vascular stents, improved catheter design for neuro, and new drug therapies has generated widespread interest. The explosion of such technology created a need for the physician and surgeon to rely more on product application advice, and the entry of clinical nurses into the profession demonstrated a higher need for qualified salespeople.

Many sales teams currently have a mix of account managers, who are responsible for the business end, and a team of technical skilled experts ready and waiting to cooperate with trials, installations, and technical advice. This symbiosis of various skills works well if the lines of responsibility are clear and adhered to.

So with All This History Have We Improved Our Image?

Absolutely “yes.” Technology is changing so fast that the time available for operators to keep up with product advancement is limited. Having an experienced sales person keeping the operator up to date with current advancements is still appreciated, but users want clear and open answers to their questions. This builds respect for us in that we are seen as knowledgeable advisors and as a valuable resource in their vital work.

Respect in the Hospital Environment Now—As an Example

This relationship has changed significantly in the medical industry. If you are not dealing with doctors, you will be dealing with nursing staff, generally senior-level, technical staff such as biomedical engineers, radiology staff, and chemotherapy staff, project managers, supply chain, DON, (Director of Nursing), CFO, CEO levels, and so on. Operating theaters are a very different area to work in and require a holistic approach. In general, the decision makers are well coached to deal with “reps” and have specific controls on what to say and how much time they can spend with you. In some cases, there are specific restrictions on visiting these customers and how to access them. The respect for our profession is good, but the intense number of sales calls on all customers is said to be too much, so you can understand the cutback on the time they have for consultation.

In other aspects of sales, respect is earned individually depending on salesperson behavior and professionalism along with company policy.

Trait Test: Take This Test to See How You Stack Up

The purpose of this test is to bring forward your traits needed to function as a productive salesperson. It is important to answer the questions honestly. There is the obvious answer for every question, but read them carefully before you answer.

Trait 1: Understands the product

  1. Takes the time to understand the product so he or she can see whether it solves a prospect’s problem.
  2. Talks about how wonderful the product is without knowing whether it’s even relevant to a prospect.

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 2: Always learning

  1. Seeks ways to fine-tune and advance their skills.
  2. Thinks he doesn’t need more help after learning the basics.

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 3: Are you open to feedback?

  1. Seeks feedback from their peers and managers.
  2. Thinks everyone is out to get him.

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 4: Understands business goals and the company’s larger picture

  1. Understands the goals of the company and how he fits into the bigger picture.
  2. Could not care less about the company and only wants to collect a paycheck.

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 5: High ethical standards

  1. Wants to work with people who have high ethical standards and take their work seriously.
  2. Justifies any action with an “I’ll do anything to get the deal” attitude.

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 6: Persistence

  1. Is persistent, but not annoying.
  2. Thinks persistence means calling a prospect several times a day.

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 7: Knows when it’s a no

  1. Understands that hearing “no” will let him move on.
  2. Wants to continue to chase deals that don’t have a chance of being sealed.

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 8: Always exceeding

  1. Sets goals for himself that exceed the expectations of the company or his manager.
  2. Is done as soon as he hits his quota.

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 9: Listens

  1. Listens carefully
  2. Talks and avoids seeking customer needs

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 10: Builds their reputation

  1. Realizes there are ways to game the system, but knows doing so would hurt his or her reputation and the company’s.
  2. Finds any shortcut available and keeps it to themselves.

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 11: Targets the buyer

  1. Quickly identifies who can make a buying decision about a product before doing a full pitch.
  2. Pitches anyone at a company who will listen.

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 12: Knows what’s needed

  1. Knows when to stop talking.
  2. Talks himself out of a deal that was already sealed.

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 13: Ongoing dialogue

  1. Takes feedback from her manager, but also provides feedback to his manager so that they both can grow.
  2. Hates the word “management” and thinks everyone needs to be looking out only for himself.

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 14: Calm under pressure

  1. Understands rejection is part of the job and remains calm and cool even if the person on the other end of the phone isn’t pleasant.
  2. Tries to fight fire with fire and gets into a verbal debate that leads nowhere.

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 15: Honest

  1. Is honest even if it could cost him or her the sale.
  2. Leaves out information that he fears the prospect may not want to hear.

Answer:1. or 2.

Trait 16: Pride in the role

  1. Respects himself or herself and takes pride in his profession.
  2. Does not really want to do sales.

Answer:1. or 2.

Do you recognize any of these good or bad sales traits in yourself?

If you are answering these questions honestly, you should be altering your selling behavior or talking to your coach for advice on how to alter bad traits.


1 Australian research demonstrates that today’s selling environment shows good support for the electronic customer support but lacks company awareness of technical data stress. Recruiters are told that no matter whom they place, the company will provide all necessary digital/communication needs and comprehensive product and sales training. From current research, this is, unfortunately, untrue. Lying and deception are practiced by fabricating the description of a job. In addition, commissions or bonus details are generally not discussed or misrepresented so the compensation schemes can be changed at a moment’s notice. Some commission schemes are so complicated that the salesperson is unable to decipher how to calculate what they may earn above base salary.

2 Why some people seem to suffer more than others—Ruud Janssen, Henk de Poot Telematica Institute. Jensen confirms information overload is a widely recognized problem worldwide, caused by too much work, work frequency, constant interruptions, and too many devices to use at once.