Stephen Hawking said "If we do discover a theory of everything... it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we would truly know the mind of God." While we are a long ways off from theorizing everything, the theory of selling is open to interpretation.
The old way of selling is dead. The hard closes and the pushiness that has surrounded us is dying, unfortunately its not dying fast enough.
Understanding today's customer is something few people have the guts to tackle, most salespeople don't even know that they are dinosaurs. Just because you're 25 doesn't mean you're not outdated, you may be just a young dinosaur, still on the list for extinction. They are so used to ripping peoples heads off that they do it without even thinking. It's become instinctual. They see customers as the opposing team, not an employer. The fact is, our customers are our employers (this ties into the 10 commandments of selling.) When a salesperson understands this dynamic, there is little that can stop you from becoming legend.
The old way of selling has been tolerated for thousands of years, something changed though, the customer got smarter. His IQ didn't go up, but his access to information did. The internet is the great equalizer of the 21st century. Much like Colonel Colt's invention of the peacemaker had changed the 19th century, the internet has changed ours, but on a much grander scale.
You are no longer a mile from your nearest competitor, you're are an inch away on a screen. Many salesman from my past -- some co-workers, others competitors -- have almost taken the attitude that the internet is their enemy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have sold millions of dollars of my products over the internet and its an advantage I can't compare to anything.
Understanding is key, it's not going away. Many people think they understand the internet, but they don't. They know it exists, but they are clueless to the vast ocean that is the world wide web. My five-year-old has a better comprehension of the internet and its limitless possibilities than most people in sales today.
The old ways are not dying fast enough to catch up with demand, its not necessarily an age or generational issue either, even my own generation from the '90s doesn't necessarily entirely understand the dynamics. While they are certainly part of the group that is the new customer, they don't know how to sell to themselves. They expect to be taken care of but the sales people helping them lack the intuition to see that their methods are going the way of the Dodo.
Its sometimes hard to remember, but like most people with bad habits, it's not entirely their own faults; they haven't been shown how to do it right. They are only doing what they have learned through experience, it has worked in the past, who could blame someone for that? The point is anyone can be taught the new way of selling.
Some understand that there is a problem. They may not know the remedy but recognizing that there is a problem is the first step. Some of my best students are in their 50s and 60s but they are a hard group to break into. They distrust change, as anyone who is set in their ways does. They are holding on for their very lives in many cases, they will all tell you, "The good old days are gone." They know they are making less money, showing them why is the key.
I became a member of eBay in 1999 in its developmental years, two years after I graduated high school. I became fascinated with the power of the internet and its relationship to selling. Since then I have devoted myself to understanding its power, not because I'm smart or brainy, but because I know that it's the way people buy. It's how they get their information, and thats the point of all of this. They are not wandering in to your car lot or store uninformed and unarmed. They know what they want, and they have a good idea of what it will cost to get it.
Today's customer comes to you with a wealth of options and information, many times they know as much or more than the person selling the product. When they show up, are you going to be ready to take them off the market and make them your customer?
You have to earn it, not the way people have meant it in the past, you really have to earn that relationship, and fast. You have to convey what and who you are quickly, remember you're only an inch away from your competitor on the screen of the smartphone in your prospective customers hand.
Understanding this new customer is the key. I'll tell you a few things about them you may already know: They buy 50 percent of everything online, and they get their news from Google, not newspapers or radio. Many of them work in jobs that don't require ties. They love to play video games. This new customer is interested in eating healthy; even though they will eat a $5 pizza they love organic alternatives wherever and whenever possible. This new customer has a personal computer, a smartphone (that they know how to use beyond email, telephone calls and basic texting) and a string of devices to compliment both of them. They are informed, they want to have information, and they want it fast. Many of these people communicate better through a device then they do face to face.
The theory of selling may be subjective, but the studies are there. As I continually learn about the new ever-changing and ever-evolving customer, I remember something an old mentor of mine told me that still rings true today: "You gotta understand the game if you want to win." These words from my wise old friend ring true to this day. He may not have ever understood the new customer, but he knew that the game was won by those who knew the rules.