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    Death of the salesman

2006-03-13 08:01

It has been over 50 years since playwright Arthur Miller brought us his famous theatrical critique of the American Dream, but now it seems the world has gone from bad to worse. It's not just the salesman who is dead it is selling itself that has kicked the bucket. Don't assume that Selling is Dead sounds like an unwelcome message for your sales department. If sales are dead, your company is dead too.

But let's back up. Maybe you don't accept the idea that selling is dead. If so, you are in good company even the authors, Miller and Sinkovitz, admit that "selling isn't really dead, as our sensationalistic title implies". Instead, they suggest that professional, strategically rooted and skilful selling is missing on the divergent front edge of the economy from which true growth originates. That's a bit of a mouthful, so they also summarize their message as "selling is broken". That's not a very compelling title for a book, however.

But there is more to a book than its title. What about the contents? Sales consultants Miller and Sinkovitz make a compelling case that the art of the sale is in serious trouble. There have been no major improvements in sales effectiveness in the past 20 years. Sales efficiency has improved slightly, due to better communications and cheaper travel, but sales effectiveness hasn't changed. Wages of salespeople have increased much faster than productivity, and "it's time for all salespeople to lose their jobs".

The underlying problem is that selling isn't all the same. Skills and strategies that work for small sales are ineffective for larger sales. Previous writers have already pointed this out, but Selling is Dead charts new territory by suggesting that there are four different types of large, major account sales. Each type has its own set of best practices, requiring different sales skills and strategies.

Conventional sales training is no longer sufficient. Today's salespeople have to avoid the simplistic, one-size-fits-all methodology recommended in most books and training models. Selling is Dead shows how to set up such a comprehensive sales strategy. It also insists that old-fashioned salespeople have to transform themselves into "high-value-adding business people who sell". That will turn the sales world around.

This is a long overdue attempt to resuscitate and update sales for the 21st Century, and is recommended reading for both sales staff and senior management.

(China Daily 03/13/2006 page12)


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