History Of Sales

Understanding the history of sales.

Are you curious about how your sales job was formed? Do you know the history of salespeople? This article will cover the different time periods that have been a significant evolutionary change in the ever-evolving sales position that you are working in today.

Below are the different periods of time, and the typical salesperson that you would encounter in these time periods, including the approach, and how the salesperson would make a sale.

The Industrial Revolution

During the 1760s to the 1840s, the industrial revolution had taken place to be one of the biggest revolutionary eras involving manufacturing processes in the United States, and in Europe.

In this time period, salespeople would not be in factories, they would be taking their skills on the road. Particularly, the snake oil salesman, who would sell a specific oil that could be applied to a worker’s body for so-called therapeutic purposes. This approach, much like a door to door sales, would heavily involve word of mouth, and may also include a demonstration if needed.

Tactical Selling in the 1930s

There were now more opportunities in the retail industry where there were not only salesmen but also many saleswomen as well. Many of the top-earning salespeople would be selling construction jobs. Such sales could use specific tactics and strategies which can be applied by reading notable sales books such as “how to win friends and influence people”.

Salespeople now understand key points like the most important sale is the sale that you make to yourself. Your conviction will seep through your words, tone, and body language. We’ve all been in a situation where a salesperson is pitching you and clearly doesn’t believe in this product so why should you.

Presenting the Sale in the 1940s & 1950s

This era would introduce door to door sales and create the notorious fast-talking salesman. A great example of this type of selling would be those who went door to door to demonstrate their vacuuming products.

Such salespeople would enter a household to demonstrate how the capabilities of vacuum in their pitch. Gaining the potential buyer’s trust in the product would play a factor in the sale. At this time, it would not be out of the ordinary for households to receive unexpected company to sell them products or services.

1960s & 1970s Trained Salesmen

This era would introduce a strategic shift in the way that salespeople would approach a sale. No longer are the days of just showcasing your product, salespeople were more inclined to study the lead in order to close the sale. Such information that would be studied could include the business that they are working for or what the company would be selling.

Cold calling is also a widely accepted means for salespeople to get leads for their company, hence why the salesperson has the opportunity to learn about the potential buyer before pitching the product.

1980s Consulting

A slightly different approach would be used in this era. The strategy includes consulting or asking a series of specific questions to better understand the buyer’s pain points.

Customers don’t want to feel as if they’ve been sold, as they may have in the past with the fast-talking salesman. They want to know that they made the decision to purchase products or services that will solve their problems. This is why they used the consultative approach. Where you don’t just sit down and talk someone into buying your product or service, you sit down and learn about the potential client by asking some questions:

  • What are you struggling with?
  • What problem can we fix?
  • How can we provide value to you and your organization?

From there listening instead of talking because then the interaction isn’t predicated on the fact that you want to sell them your product. Instead, the focus is trying to deliver a solution to their pain points.

And then once you find out what their challenges are, you sell the solution. The best salespeople would be the ones who sit down with the prospect and if their product can’t help them achieve the prospect’s goals, then they point them in the right direction.

1990s Solving the Problem

Now salespeople are identifying the problem, using the techniques of the 1980s to consult with the prospect, then present the idea of how the product is solving the problems of the buyer. During the dot-com bubble, the salespeople had the opportunity to work with companies that are understanding the problems, and how software can be a solution to solving such issues.

Long gone are the days of salespeople trying to sell products based on their features. The reason why this did not work is that the features are irrelevant until it provides a solution to the prospect’s problems. It’s just the salesperson explaining their product without much of a conversation.

In today’s day and age, we use several different modern approaches to gain valuable leads such as content marketing. Getting out of the stage of anonymity and being recognized as a leader in your industry can be difficult if you’re mainly doing door to door or cold calling. Using free mediums such as Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube, and other social media platforms gives an upper hand in getting out of obscurity which can be the main problem in the beginning stages of business. It is very common today to be using a more personal approach via social media.

Today, an average b2b sales meeting requires 7-12 touchpoints, this is where leveraging digital platforms to your favour can be advantageous. Whereas the fast-talking salesperson of the past could make a sale in one presentation. Today’s consumer wants to be sure that what they spend their money on gives them the return on the investment that they’re looking for. Being prepared and secure in their decision is the priority of the present consumer. This elongated decision making process adds another layer to today’s sales cycle.

However, providing informational content not only helps the client get to see more about your organization without actually going to the physical location of your business but it also builds trust because of the massive exposure you can deliver with all the content you have. Removing any type of friction in the sales process by making it convenient for the client to get to know the organization is essential for converting that prospect into a paying client.

The different eras can help you understand your selling roots, and how you can imagine the sales job would have been created. As you can see, we are in a new era of selling that is far different than that of our salespeople before us. The digital platforms and the convenience of choice for buyers can make the process far more complex than ever before.

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