ABC’s “Shark Tank” is so popular that it has spawned two spin-offs and now is adding “guest sharks” to its upcoming season. To me, the irony is that the image of a sales “shark” has nothing to do with 21st century selling.

Sharks are stealthy and ominous. They glide through waters just waiting for that moment of weakness when they can attack – as depicted in Discovery Channel’s Shark Week or films like Unbroken or Life of Pi. They want an easy kill and are less concerned about serving “customers”.

That’s just not how top performing sales organizations get ahead. Here are three reasons why best-in-class organizations are building love shacks not shark tanks in today’s selling environment:

Shark tanks don’t deliver personalization

We live in a connected age, where instant access to vast amounts of data is transforming existing processes and transforming customer interactions. This trend has already impacted entire industries, from healthcare to travel to human resources, and with 9.7 billion connected devices projected in our cities by 2020, shows no sign of slowing down.

When you think about a sales shark, it’s unlikely that personalization jumps to mind. Yet personalization is a critical requirement for modern sales teams to gain competitive advantage. According to Aberdeen Group, nearly half of best-in-class companies personalize the customer experience. Further, by aggressively aligning with marketing to personalize content down to the sales rep level, these organizations are achieving up to 21% stronger lead acceptance and 36% higher conversion rates.

Shark tanks don’t build trust

Forrester Research reveals that 80% of executive buyers say sales reps don’t understand their issues. By understanding buyer needs, companies build trust. No longer are product knowledge and pricing the biggest sales differentiators. Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charlie Munger has stated that “trust surpasses knowledge” as the #1 key to success.

Gartner analyst Tiffani Bova, speaking at a recent sales conference, said if buyers don’t believe sales people understand their needs, they lose trust. In order to build trust, organizations need more insight to understand customer problems – something that’s not a priority for sales sharks that want a fast deal.

Shark tanks don’t deliver a depth of understanding

To support a customer-driven organization, businesses need insights into customer interests and processes to respond to customer needs in real-time. Analytics provide the depth of knowledge needed to deliver personalization and build trust – giving organizations a new way to connect with customers and strengthen business value.

Today’s selling is about the value-add you bring to the table. With deeper knowledge about customers’ needs and concerns, you become a trusted advisor.

Tamara Schenk, sales enablement analyst and leader shared this advice given to her 20+ years ago, “If someone simply doesn’t want to buy from you, you cannot sell him anything.” Put a different way by Max Altschuler, founder of SalesHacker.com, “People buy from people.”

Selling is personal, and the biggest opportunities come from stronger customer relationships. And that’s precisely why you need a love shack, not a shark tank.

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