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Are our sales skills going backwards?

The question of losing traditional sales skills has been on the agenda for some time. Given all of the new technologies, social media and digital options, direct selling, has in many instances become dated or at the very least lost some of its relevance compared with 20 years ago. That is well understood and much of our own business is based on the provision of digital marketing best practice.
 
There are still areas that require traditional sales and it is critical that professionalism and skills are continuously practiced in those areas. There are many examples in Hospitality and especially in the high quality end of the market and event sales. To lose many of  these skills over time would be a mistake.
 
The real concern is not that there are now many other ways of selling your product but rather than the new approaches by some  organizations have not yet developed the best practices that are necessary to implement good customer service and achieve strong consistent sales. This applies to many new sales genres and we think there is some evidence to suggest there is a lack of attention to  direct sales skills. Some of these have relevance in the digital and technology world. Individuals who argue against this seem to confuse customer service with a facility that calls itself customer services!
 
So apparent is this that to demonstrate the issue we have kept a sample log of our own experiences, as customers, in recent weeks and would like to share them with you.

  • Sales calls received from companies who have already sold us the same product and recently.
  • Representatives via tele sales that are poorly briefed.
  • Inefficient and poorly trained call center agents.
  • Follow up calls despite being informed we have no interest and do not want further calls.
  • Requests for information which have not been forthcoming or the incorrect information has been forwarded.
  • Telephone sales agents who are clearly reading from set lists and  do not understand the brand or product.
  • Poor English in English speaking regions.
  • Strong accents that are impossible to understand or decipher.
  • Frustrating and repetitive automated answering services and long wait times with unacceptable excuses.
  • Long, tedious and impersonal email correspondence to rectify faulty product or close a sale.

The list is endless but demonstrates the issue. What appears to be happening in some instances is that technology is sometimes incorrectly used for expediency, a cheap fix, driven by cost reductions and not enough thought applied. It is almost as if we are focusing of how to harness the next scientific development before mastering what we have. The issue is not the technology but how it is used.
 
A good many people we have talked to on this very subject can identify with these issues and quote similar other examples. What is clearly needed is the same kind of disciplines that we have seen in direct traditional sales approaches over the years. The customer experience has to be put at the forefront, all sales techniques need well recruited and trained personnel, technology must be human in many respects and personal needs taken into account. The whole experience needs to be void of frustration. Where it is not working for the customer new techniques are needed .
 
Developing our real potential in the new world would benefit from less haste and more speed. Organizations that do not have the relevant skills should seek them from the outside. There are many excellent practitioners out there who are experienced in the digital areas and who take into account the traditional expectations of customers.
 
What is your experience, do you think there is an issue and where and how do you think we can improve?

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