How old-school salespeople can deal with the New World Order

As a neophyte sales engineer, I cut my teeth in the company of Legends-of-the-Game. Cagey old guys with wisdom beyond my comprehension and a truckload of stories about creative deals made over three-martini lunches or on the back nine on a random Wednesday afternoon. Using dog tag numbers for purchase orders or promising a delivery driver a cold six pack if he got THAT box there by 5 pm. These were the glory days; a bygone era as blissful in memory as the dead ball era in Baseball is to nonagenarian Brooklynites.

This was my reality at one point and, like microscopic ERA’s and complete games in Major League Baseball, a woeful part of history.

The sales “process” of 30 years ago was: get to know the person responsible for placing orders (the GUY), play golf or have drinks a few times, start doing favors and orders would soon follow.

This created a RELATIONSHIP where you, the salesman, would lie, cajole and wheedle your way through numerous SNAFUS to ensure the GUY always looked good to his boss. At times, there would be a quid pro quo favor when a late delivery or quality problem was conveniently stashed away by your GUY so the RELATIONSHIP remained intact. And so it goes.

Enter the New World Order. Sales folks have funnels and KPI’s and a CRM system that are the tools of the trade. We have Farmers and Hunters and Closers and SDR’s to set things up. We have quotas and playbooks and lots of stats that optimize engagement. The New World has quantified selling to the point where an impromptu sales call is as a rare as picking up a lunch tab. Time is precious. Schedules need to be kept. And, everyone is keeping score.

To my esteemed colleagues north of the half-century mark, I have words of advice, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. Embrace the changes on the basis of that is what customers expect. Learn to use the company CRM system. They really are handy. Update (or create) and pay close attention to your LinkedIn profile. People look at them all the time. As far as the other stats, if you’re still successful at this stage of your career, you already do the things that make those stats look good. Someone just gave them a name other than experience and common sense.

It is uncommon to have the kind of old-school relationship my Legends thrived upon. I will remember them fondly and use them in my capacity as a manager of the next generation of sales pros. But I no longer will preach the importance of gaining the level of RELATIONSHIP where you can expect favors in kind. That is not a realistic expectation anymore.

Excuse me, while I go check on my social media stats.