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The Future of Selling

By Robert Sharoff, REALTOR® Magazine

We’re entering an era of sales specialization, say Neil Rackham and John De Vincentis, authors of Rethinking the Sales Force (New York: McGraw-Hill; $24.95). “Different customers demand different approaches,” they say. “The key to success will be figuring out which selling approach will best fit the customer.”

The book divides selling into three categories: transactional, enterprise, and consultative, with the third having the most meaning for real estate brokers who manage a sales force. Consultative sales are those in which “buyers don’t enter the buying process knowing enough to make a sound buying decision” and so must rely on the expertise of a salesperson.

The book recommends dividing the sales process into individual milestones that must be carried out during the sales cycle. The point is to take some of the mystery out of selling–to make it less dependent on rainmakers and “rock star personalities” and more a matter of carefully following a program. “Dependence on rock-star talent,” the authors note, “is a serious business risk” because such personalities typically regard themselves as free agents and display little company loyalty.

The key to effective consultative selling is “seeking” rather than “telling.” Seeking is asking questions and finding out what customers need. Telling is describing a product in a take-it-or-leave-it manner. “Telling fails dismally in consultative sales,” say the authors.

The book also recommends minimizing the number of meetings that salespeople must attend and focusing reporting and paperwork in areas that will pay off in higher sales: “A call report completed after a customer visit adds very little value. The same effort, however, put into call planning can result in a more purposeful meeting.”

Finally, many companies may want to look into skill and strategy coaching for salespeople. The former involves evaluating face-to-face selling skills, and the latter focuses on improving planning.

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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