I am pleased to have as my guest today Linda Richardson, the founder and chairwoman of Richardson, a global sales performance company that delivers sales process strategies, curricula and tools to help salespeople drive more positive business outcomes. She teaches sales and management courses at the Wharton Graduate School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton Executive Development Center. Linda is the author of ten books on sales and sales management, and she has been featured in numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Nation’s Business, Selling Power, Success, and the Conference Board magazine.

Below, you can read highlights from our discussion or use the links to start the video from different parts of the conversation.

The New Selling Landscape Calls for a New Sales Map

Click to start video at this point—In response to my question about the most significant change in marketing and sales over the last year, Linda talks about the impact of the Internet and changes in the way customers buy. Today’s customers are self-educating, and she notes that the first thing they do when they think they have identified a need is go to the Internet to get product information for themselves. They then they use social media to check what other contacts have done about those issues.

She adds, “Many of the old models that have been based on how salespeople go out and sell are irrelevant now. Everyone seems to be struggling to come up with a new way to sell and succeed in this new sales map which is truly challenging. And the salesperson is intercepting in the sales process later, which is not a good thing.”

Linda notes this shift has changed what salespeople need to do, as well as the nature of the conversation: “So it’s a really exciting time—challenging—but I think it has really opened up a lot of opportunities for salespeople to become advisors because customers and clients need advice. They need people to help them connect the dots. They’re looking to learn and to get ideas.”

On Sharing Perspectives and Learning from Each Other

Click to start video at this point—I comment on the welcome sense of transparency her blog and website display, and Linda discusses her approach to sharing ideas and content: “When I do a blog, I don’t look at it in any way, shape or form as an avenue to pitch. I think it’s a time to raise issues, share perspectives and be open to know that there are going to be pluses and minuses to the perspectives that we share. I think our readers really like that. I enjoy the opportunity to share ideas with them, learn back and get different perspectives on issues. So I think that is the purpose of the blog—to really stimulate thinking and to learn from each other. I think it is important to have a perspective and—even sometimes if it’s not going to be the most popular or the most common one—put it out there and get feedback.”

Keys to Engaging with Great Clients

Click to start video at this point—Asked about keys to Richardson’s success, Linda says, “We started out as a very small company, and I think over the years we really have developed a terrific reputation for excellent offerings, for producing results, and for really being genuinely client focused. We want our clients to succeed, and we have great relationships with them.”

She also talks about the pride she has in their sales force: “The big compliment that they always get is, ‘We want our salespeople to sell like you do.’ I think they role model what we’re teaching. We have a whole system—it’s not just an event. A client knows they’re going to get the tools, the reinforcement and the consulting around what it’s going to take to make our work with them stick.”

Linda’s Upcoming Book: The New Sales Conversation

Click to start video at this point—I ask Linda about the book she is working on, and she enthusiastically talks about The New Sales Conversation. She says this book is similar to her first book for the banking industry in that it also came out on the brink of a significant shift—at that time, bankers were first taking on the selling role and had to compete.

Linda adds, “The New Sales Conversation basically marks the end of old selling. It talks about selling to the highly sophisticated, self-educated and risk-averse client and how the models and conversations have to change. It looks at how to help salespeople intercept the buying cycle earlier so they have a competitive advantage. And I feel it’s reflective of all the things that we’ve been changing in our program in working with our clients—it’s really what they need in the new world that they’re selling in. I’m really very excited about it.”

Responding To vs. Shaping vs. Creating Demand

Click to start video at this point—Sharing comments on recent reports on empowered buyers and their delayed engagement with sales reps, I ask Linda about getting involved earlier in the sales cycle. She talks about approaches to selling and addressing buyer demand: “I think there are three modes of selling. I think if you respond, like for that RFP, you have a conversation and see the customer has a need, then you’re in a responsive mode.” She adds, “I think if you’re really relying completely on the responding, it’s going to be a losing battle.”

On the second approach, she notes, “There’s a shaping mode. And I think that’s really where salespeople can add value. Let’s say the customer has identified the need and even has a couple of ideas about the kind of solution they’re looking for. They’ve done some homework, but that doesn’t mean they’re on the mark. You have a terrific opportunity if you have business acumen and if you understand the industry.”

Regarding the final approach, Linda says, “The third stage or mode of selling is where you actually create the demand. You look at a client and you say to your self that something’s missing there—this client could be doing ‘x.’”

Given these three modes, she talks about the role of the salesperson: “Really be prepared. How do you bring ideas to a client? You need to bring them insights, and those insights come from a deep knowledge and understanding so that you can trigger something in a client’s mind that they have not set as an objective. So I see it as a balance, but certainly a shift toward being much, much more proactive and being much more prepared to add value.”

Elaborating on the role of the salesperson, Linda summarizes, “Most clients I believe in B2B sales with complex businesses absolutely do need salespeople to help them connect the dots and to bring them ideas. And the beauty is if we can bring insights, share insights and gain insights from clients, they can give us insights that we can then play forward with other clients. So I think it’s really critical that salespeople have a knowledge portfolio that exceeds anything that they’ve had in the past.”

2013: A Resurgence in Developing People for the New Sales Landscape

Click to start video at this point—Linda shares an optimistic assessment of 2013: “My outlook is that I’m seeing sales organizations realizing that it’s important to really retool the salespeople on their teams. I believe there’s going to be a resurgence in developing people and really gearing them up for the new sales landscape. I think marketing and selling will finally become aligned. And marketing will not only be doing the branding and all the things that it does so well, but they’re going to have a part in the sales conversation to really help salespeople be more prepared, be more knowledgeable and bring more value. So I’m optimistic, and I’m excited about the new sales models that salespeople will be relearning—it’s time to put a lot of the old models aside.”

You can connect with Linda and learn more about her work via the following resources:

Linda Richardson

Linda’s Email Address: linda (at) lindarichardson (dot) com

Richardson Website: www.richardson.com

Richardson on Twitter: @RichardsonSales

The next PowerViews will be with Bob Kelly of The Sales Management Association. Stay Tuned.