Long time readers will be surprised. I’ve raged against the posts predicting the death of sales. I’ve shifted my views, we are killing ourselves!

The issue isn’t whether our customers no longer need sales people. They are hungry for information, more importantly they are starved for help! Our customers’ worlds are increasingly complex. They are overworked and overwhelmed. They face challenges they’ve never encountered before. Many don’t even recognize they could be doing better or that they are missing opportunities. They want to learn and improve. They want our help!

Sales people should be filling that important role as change agents. We need to be helping our customers think about their businesses differently. We need to help customer understand and solve problems/address opportunities to more effectively achieve their goals. We need to understand them and their businesses and what’s most important to them. We need to be creating value in every interaction with customers.

None of this is new, sales has always been about the customer and helping them achieve their goals. The history of great sales literature has reiterated this for decades! Drucker, Hanan, Rackham, Miller/Heiman, and 1000’s of others talk about the same things. Whether you believe in Consultative, Customer Focused, Solution, CustomerCentric, Value Based, Insight Driven, Challenger, or any of the myriad of methodologies, all are based on the same principles.

Yet for some reason we persist in doing the things that drive customers away. We focus on what we care about, not what the customer cares about. We continue to pitch our products, letting customers figure out how they solve their problems. We don’t take the time to understand our customers—organizationally or individually—their priorities and key drivers. We are unprepared, shooting from the lip, wasting our customers’ time. We blindly email and phone prospects without any preparation or knowledge of our relevance. We leverage manipulative tactics to serve our own purposes, possibly taking advantage of the customer. We focus more on our goals than the customer’s success. We can’t articulate/create value or differentiation–training our customers only to expect the lowest price.

We’ve always known what we should be doing, but for decades have failed to change—perhaps only adopting new, more fashionable terminology or leveraging a veneer of technology, so we can expand the channels and methods by which we pummel customers with self centered pitches.

It isn’t digitally savvy customers self educating themselves that’s killing sales. It’s our inability to understand the value we can deliver to the digitally savvy customers in improving their businesses and achieve their goals. It’s our inability to put the customers’ success front and center in everything we do.

No self respecting Sales Professional or Customer should tolerate this!

Perhaps it’s good, there will always be important roles for top performing sales people, doing the things that create value for customers and our own businesses. Perhaps, the best thing for sales professionals of the future is that those doing everything wrong kill themselves off. Maybe then, we’d start changing how others perceive us.