A Modern Sellers Journey
& the struggle to blend sales processes with technology
My journey into the sales world started 15 years ago, and at the time I was not even aware of it. My official title was Corporate Travel Agent and Online Help Desk Manager. It doesn’t sound like a sales position, does it?
With six years into this luxurious work from home career, I was having lunch with an old friend who happened to be a Regional Sales Manager. After several discussions about how customer service was much easier than sales, he chimed in with “Mike, you know you’re in sales right?”. What this friend had noticed (and I had not), was that unknowingly many different vendors had slowly but surely influenced me to “encourage” their product over another. What I simply saw as “perks” were in fact many small item-based “rewards” or commissions. While it wasn’t cash, it was a commission. And with that, my journey into sales had begun.
With roots in customer service I have always preferred customer focused selling techniques. The same qualities that helped me excel at customer service translated easily to this type of selling. The problem was, that is not what most organizations look for in their sales team. “Closers” are what companies recruit. While I have nothing against “closers”, this simply went against my moral compass. While I wanted coffee (Coffee’s for closers) and understood the ABC’s (Always Be Closing), I did not feel good about myself at the end of the day. Even with those big commission checks. These high pressure/high reward positions were a real eye-opener for me. Especially from a consumer point of view. How many times had I been overpriced and over sold? Needless to say, my stint into this world was not long lived. This was the true definition of “old-school” sales, and it wasn’t for me.
Luckily, in 2013 I found a happy home in Business to Business sales. My talent for customer service, product knowledge, technology prowess and attention to detail all served me well in this environment, but something was missing. The B2B sales methodology was still very old school. Wear your suit, get business cards, knock on doors and make your calls. I could not get over the amount of busy work involved. How in the modern era were companies still working like this? Why hadn’t every company invested in modern tools like Social Media, Customer Relationship Management and Lead Generation with Marketing Campaigns. I had heard of it. I assumed that is how business was done. What I soon found out is that most companies were still using what they considered “tried and true” sales techniques. It was not only not the norm, but the rarity. While I was very happy with the company, co-workers and compensation, I needed a better process. I couldn’t help but think, “modern business is not done this way. This is not efficient”.
This lack of cohesion and usability quickly became an obsession. I tried tools for productivity, task prioritization and boxes marked “urgent, not urgent, do it now, do it later” with pretty colors. Ai assistants that would do many of these tasks for me. Something was still missing. While these tools helped, they didn’t talk to each other. It soon became more work switching between applications than the time it was actually saving. This was a turning point for me. I began to understand why upper management was hesitant to spend time and resources on solutions that might have similar outcomes.
While I desperately wanted these modern tools, many of my peers wanted nothing to do with them. In fact, they didn’t even want to use the tools they already had. In their eyes, these tools were for management to track their activity. Not tools to increase productivity (and their income). While they could very well be right, there is nothing to worry about if you are doing your job. “Big brother” is only scary when you’re the one being lazy. Sales managers need these tools to verify activity. They can’t help when you’re struggling if they don’t know what’s wrong.
So here I was. Frustrated and stuck at the crossroads of modern technology and old school sales techniques. My generation finds themselves here a lot. We witnessed the birth of the internet, got excited when the AOL dialup heard an actual connection (through a PHONE LINE) and were the first to grow up playing video games. I’ve heard us described as “the Oregon Trail” generation which I think suits us. We walk the line between Generation X and Millennials, but we speak both languages. We are most a “rare bird” indeed. So, I’m sure you’re asking yourself at this point, “Well Mike, where did you find the answer”?
My search for the answer ultimately led me to a career change with a company that specialized in exactly what I had been searching for. Improving the way organizations do business with technology. In regard to the solution, I found the answer in an old school company with new age thinking. Kind of like me, they bridged the gap. That company was Microsoft. They started this modern age of computing. Hand in hand with Apple, they built the foundations that we currently stand on. Their current modern office suite of tools integrates everything in the ecosystem. From CRM/ERP (Dynamics 365) to collaboration & communication tools (Outlook & Teams), Always accessible cloud-based file storage (SharePoint & OneDrive) to even the most traditional office programs (Word, Excel & PowerPoint). Everything is connected, everything works together. Powered by Azure and Microsoft native AI, it’s not only convenient, it can be almost completely automated (Flow/Power Automate). Even mobile applications can be generated by the average user (Power Apps).
I now have the privilege of selling something I believe in. Something I was searching for. With these integrated systems almost anything routine and mundane can be automated. My AI assistant sets reminders to follow up with clients if it doesn’t see a response. Tells me to send a document when I said I would but didn’t and even rates the health of the relationship and level of engagement. This truly is Modern Selling, but it is powered by the tools built for the Modern Office. Connected, mobile and scalable.
In future posts I intend to give more details about each one of these solutions and how they can empower the modern seller. The modern sales process requires a shift in how we engage with our clients and prospects. This is a new definition of engagement. Even with this technology, sales reps are often missing the mark on what’s actually important to buyers – and worse, they often don’t realize it. My goal for this series to shed light on this methodology and help you and your team shift to modern selling techniques and overcome the modern sales predicament. This will require a fundamental shift in your sales process, but in the end, I can ensure that you will be better prepared for the future and your sales process will be in alignment with the modern buyers journey. Oh, what a place to be!
So that’s my story. The journey from knocking on doors to automated email campaigns. For a long time, I didn’t think I’d ever find a solution. Little did I know the answer was in front of me the whole time. Literally on my desktop.