The Car Salesman Model is Dead

In the heyday of car sales, buyers depended on car salesmen to steer them into purchasing the right car for their needs. At times, that steering was an in-your-face, hard sell that led buyers to distrust every car salesman on the lot, but buyers would eventually drive with a new car because their options were limited. While this approach may have been lucrative and successful in decades past, it no longer works. It’s 2016 and we need to kill the car salesman approach to selling.

With 70% of the buyer’s journey happening before buyers talk to Sales, the in-your-face, hard sell approach isn’t going to help anyone. As buyers continue to redefine the sales process and how they think about software, we as Salespeople need to redefine how we approach the new buyer’s journey.

Let’s take a moment to pause and think about how we sell. Are we still holding onto the car salesman model? Or have we evolved and are more consultative in our approach? To make it in Sales today, you have to be the latter. Why? Think about it: 70% of the buyer’s journey happens before they talk to Sales–that leaves only 30% of the journey for Salespeople to actually sell.

Buyers today are simply different. Step one in redefining our focus begins with taking a closer look at the buyer’s journey and aligning how we sell with it.

Map Content to the Buyer’s Journey (Even Before We’re Involved)

The first step in killing the car salesman approach is to work on earning back a buyer’s trust. Buyers want a softer touch sale and want to view a Salesperson as a knowledgeable consultant that’s there to aide them along their journey rather than aggressively push them through it.

The first order is to map content to the buyer’s journey and that content mapping needs to start pre-sales funnel. So, before buyers are even aware of their need for a tool–Marketing should produce valuable content that plants the seed for you as a credible source in the future buyer’s journey. Once a buyer realizes that they need a tool, studies show that 72% of them will turn to Google and begin a general search to explore their options. This is called the research phase or the starting point of the buyer’s journey–this is where it’s paramount for Salespeople to authentically share content via #SocialSelling, for Marketing to produce thought leadership and by no means invoke any of the traits of a car salesman.

Mapping content to the pre-buyer’s journey is a crucial point in creating awareness for your company, it’s equally important to carry that thread throughout the lifecycle of the journey from SQL, SLA, opportunity, closed-won, evangelism, etc. Buyers are moving en masse to research their options before and throughout their journey–it only makes sense that your company should have content that addresses every stage.

Let’s take Middle of the Funnel for example, what kind of content should be inserted at this stage? Well, buyers are typically engaged and interested in industry best practices and content that contains customer testimonials that are hyper-relevant to their company and role.

Make Solving Your Buyers Problems Your Objective

With 80% of buyers typically knowing exactly what they want before they contact Sales, it’s even more important to have immediate and relevant interactions with buyers at every turn of their journey. To do that, Salespeople need to make solving their buyers problems their #1 objective.

Much like mapping content to each stage in the buyer’s journey, another change that Sales needs to adopt is molding their sales pitch and story to solving a buyer’s pain points or problems. In the car salesman days, the pitch was simple: a buyer needed a car and it was the salesman’s job to sell them a car–no matter what. That approach doesn’t work anymore. A Salesperson is no longer just a person in Sales. Instead, a Salesperson today needs to be a great listener, an empathizer and a problem solver for their buyers. So, the first step in solving a buyer’s problem involves asking probing questions that get to the core of why a buyer is looking a tool. Just by asking questions, listening and strategizing on how to answer it–Salespeople are going to connect with buyers and ultimately turn into paying customers.

Pro-Tip: Prior to asking probing questions, remember to conduct thorough research on your prospect, their industry, their personal interests, competitors, etc. so you can get the full story and tailor your messaging appropriately.

In short, Salespeople need to earn the trust of buyers and adapt their pitch story to every buyer in their sales funnel–because every buyer is different. 91% of buyers say they have higher expectations of Salespeople now than two years ago. To combat that, Salespeople need to adopt a training role and share best practices, relevant content and present a story that truly solves a buyer’s problems.

Personalize Your Outreach Messaging

Good sales is communication with contextualized and personalized messaging throughout the entire sales process–right when buyers need it. The #1 way to connect with buyers is to appeal to them specifically and authentically. Through the rise of Social Selling, Salespeople now have a viable channel to share content, learn about buyers and connect with them–all before starting the sales process.

Much like how buyers have more information available to them than ever, it’s reciprocal for Salespeople too. Buyers are on LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora, Reddit, groups, sales communities, etc and are sharing more and more information about themselves socially. It’s now our job as Salespeople to collect and digest all that information and let it inform our outreach messaging.

Sales is no longer about pushing cars off the dealership lot. Sales is now about having great conversations, building trust and creating true partnership between the buyer and seller. The only way to accomplish all of that is to personalize your messaging. Take the extra two minutes to tailor your messaging to every buyer and scratch at the fact that 70% of the buyer’s journey is done before they talk to Sales. If you really want to make an impact (and meet your quota), you have to personalize your messaging.

Don’t sweat it though, personalizing your messaging doesn’t have to be tiresome. Take ten minutes and research your buyer on LinkedIn, Twitter, their company website, etc. and find something relevant that you can speak to. For example, maybe you two went to the same college–write about that. Sales is about making connections, so find a connection and use it your messaging.

The Car Sales Model is Dead

Even though people are still buying cars, the car salesman model is dying for actual car salesman too. According to a Wall Street Journal article titled Say Goodbye to the Car Salesman, “a car salesman used to spend long days on his feet. Now he’s becoming like everyone else–stuck most days in a chair in front of a computer screen.” So, if actual car salesmen are moving away from their once lucrative model–it’s time we all move away from it too.