The Negotiator Magazine

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The traditional sales pitch was, by necessity, generic. All of the product's features and benefits had to be covered because salespeople had no way of knowing which features and benefits were relevant. It was a true shotgun approach in which salespeople tried to sell their products to every prospect, regardless of need. There was no follow-up after the sale. Traditional salespeople moved from one transaction to the next without looking back. Sales were perceived as one-shot deals.

Traditional selling is not dead. It is still used in the automobile industry. Despite the changes in the marketplace and their desperate need for differentiation, car dealerships are still insulting their customers with high-pressured, traditional tactics. They are short-term thinkers who must assume there is an endless supply of new customers.

Is this the basis for long-term relationships? Is this the formula for success? Certainly not. General Motors had its worst year in its history in 1992. In November of 1993, an article in the Wall Street Journal reported that Chevrolet is just now waking up and making customer satisfaction the focus of a full-scale make-over effort. Why so late? Companies such as Nordstrom, L.L. Bean, Federal Express, and others discovered and implemented that years ago.

Traditional selling has another Achilles' heel. It creates tension and could be construed as adversarial. Traditional salespeople often perceive their prospects as people with whom they must go to battle to win business. This power-struggle mind set is supported by sales trainers who teach manipulative sales technique and by books with combative titles such as Hard Ball Selling, Guerrilla Marketing, and The Sale Begins When The Customer Says No.

It does not take a genius to realize that the focus in traditional selling is misplaced and myopic. The commando approach to selling is obsolete. It does not foster referrals, references, repeat business, word-of-mouth advertising, customer satisfaction, or good will.

Collaborative Selling

Collaborative selling begins with a different mindset: a commitment to the long-term. Today's customers buy differently, so today's salespeople must sell differently. Customers know there is no urgency to buy because good deals, good salespeople, and good companies come along every day. Price is less of an issue because buyers are not just interested in great deals; they want great relationships. Today's customers are looking for measurable quality in the products and services they buy.

The transition to collaborative selling and the emphasis on long-term relationships is evident in the words and phrases that are used to describe modern buyer-seller relationships: strategic alliances, sustaining resources, single sources, integrity, values, and ethics.

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