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New survey finds that traditional relationship selling is outmoded

Senior-level decision-makers are far more open to considering buying a new product or service from a salesperson who understands their business than from someone they simply know and trust, according to a survey of 231 decision makers from North America, Asia Pacific and the United Kingdom by The Forum Corporation, a premiere learning organisation. 

The survey offers surprising findings about what senior-level decision-makers value most in those from outside their business whom they invite to help them understand and solve important problems. Surprisingly, the attributes of understanding a customer's business and industry were far more important to these decision makers than simply knowing them.  This has significant implications for what has traditionally been called relationship selling, and indicates that as the business world becomes more complex, companies are looking for expertise and insights more than familiar faces or even low cost solutions.

“These findings should revolutionize the way senior sales professionals approach their work," said Jeffrey Baker, Forum's vice president and practice leader of sales effectiveness.  “Today, customers are looking for sales people to help them create new value, not only respond to needs with solutions and attractive prices. Rather than ask the classic question, 'What's keeping you up at night?' salespeople should now be telling their customers, 'This is what should be keeping you up at night.'"

Sales people are far more likely to engage senior level decision makers in a new sales opportunity by demonstrating their understanding of a customer's business and industry than by relying heavily on an existing relationship with them. It is no longer an effective selling method in today's complex business environment, Baker explained. Salespeople instead must focus on bringing fresh insight to their customers about how to create new value or how to solve important but intractable problems. By initiating an educational conversation and provoking new perspectives about important business issues, vulnerabilities, and opportunities, a salesperson is then able to guide an executive's thinking toward considering the sales person's solution. 

This new approach, called "Point of View Selling," also enables salespeople to sell higher in an organization, which is more efficient because decisions are more likely to be made quickly, and orders may be larger.  

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