Selling Has Changed. Have You?

Years ago, the typical sale was transactional in nature.  Low value deals were consummated in one meeting.  Products were seen as commodities and were sold that way.  The pressure on the seller was tremendous since he knew he usually had but one chance to close the deal.  If he didn’t get the business, his competitor would.  Faced with that challenge, sellers were trained to use manipulative techniques in an attempt to generate business.

Selling has, indeed, become more difficult.  Today the typical sale has become more relationship oriented and far more complex.   The reasons for this are:

  • The typical sale has become larger in dollar terms.
  • Buyers have become far more sophisticated and knowledgeable.
  • The impact of a poor buying decision becomes greater as the dollar amount of the sale increases.
  • With greater risk, companies often involve more people in the decision process, which extends the sales cycle.
  • The relationship between the vendor and the client often continues for some period of time, perhaps indefinitely, so trust is critical.
  • People are looking for problem solvers, not product pushers.

“Day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon…everything’s different.” – Calvin, of Calvin & Hobbs

Salespeople have had difficulty noticing the change and adjusting their selling approach accordingly.  You should not use the same strategies and tactics to sell an expensive, complex solution that you would use to sell a simple, low-tech product such as furniture, cell phones, or even cars.

Here’s a comparison of the skills needed for the different types of sales. 

SimpleTransactional Sale Complex Relationship Sale
Product knowledge Managing a complex process
“Gift of gab” Questioning skills
Persuading Listening skills
Overcoming objections Building trust & rapport
Closing Problem identification and solving


You may find that your selling environment has elements of both types of sales, and lots of gray areas in between.  For example, opening a new account with a company that will place orders on a regular basis may be more complex and relationship oriented.  The regular orders you receive from that account are more transactional in nature.  Make sure you use the right selling tool for the situation.

Self-Study Assignment:  What type of sale do you find yourself in? Think about what happens when you use the tools for a simple sale when you are in a relationship sale, and vice versa.