The Game has Changed for the Salesforce

Thomas Freese

The Game has Changed for the Salesforce

Sales used to be a relatively simple act. Sellers would go out into their respective territories, build relationships, probe for needs, and then espouse the value of their products and services. Don’t get me wrong—sellers are still doing all of these things, it’s just not that simple anymore, and here’s why.

Buyers are Weary

Potential buyers have become more cautious and standoffish than ever before, holding salespeople at arm’s length. They don’t always answer their phone when you call, and will rarely call you back. This makes penetrating accounts and filling the forecast with new opportunities even more of a challenge.

Add the fact that competition has become more intense since the economy started sputtering, and with margins cut to the bone, not offering the best price could cost you the deal, and being the lowest-price provider can put you out of business. It makes you wonder, what can a salesperson to do to succeed in this rapidly changing business environment?

Sellers all sound the same

To win a sale, you must be able to successfully communicate an impactful message about your product or service and you must be able to differentiate yourself from other competitive offerings in the marketplace. Sellers are desperately trying to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, only to end up commoditizing their respective value propositions. But how can you accomplish these objectives if value propositions that all sound the same are falling on deaf ears?

People don’t buy smartphones, for example, because they want a smarter telephone. Rather they buy these products because of intangible benefits like increased productivity, accessibility, convenience, access to data or personal safety. How do we touch increased productivity, or accurately measure something like convenience. Your company’s value proposition might come down to a whole list of intangible benefits that affect the customer’s perception of your value, including:

Competence Experience  Passion
Understanding Integrity   Thought Leadership
Capability Responsiveness Follow Through
Attitude Comfort Level Accountability
Vision Creativity Honesty
Being Forthright   Expertise Capability
Caring  Empathy  Knowledge


You might be the most knowledgeable, capable, and honest person in the entire industry, but you still have to be perceived as such. The above list of intangibles is not something you can claim; it must be earned. If you are seen as not being credible, incompetent, dishonest, with a bad attitude, sales becomes an extremely difficult way to make a living.

Skeptical customers, who aren’t necessarily excited about sharing information with a salesperson they don’t yet know or trust are only going to give you a small window of time. With this in mind, today’s salesperson needs to come across as being relevant, purposeful, credible, and valuable, and you better get to the meat of your message quickly or you may not get a second chance.

Note that speed is not the issue. A fast-talking salesperson gives off the same bad vibes they’ve always created. Rather, the answer is adjusting your technique for this new paradigm where customer skepticism is the backdrop for every sale. At least that’s how it begins.

Conveying more intangible benefits than your competitors, it is absolutely possible to alter customer perception without changing your own personality. The differentiator, however, is not your product or service. Rather, it’s your approach and the perception other people will form about your given that the game has now changed for individual salespeople and for entire sales organizations.     

About the Author                           

Thomas Freese is the author of the Secrets of Question Based Selling. In the past 13 years, since the first edition was released, he has come to realize that the intangible criteria sought by customers, and the benefits being offered by the proposing vendor, are more important than the product itself. Find out more at