While the Mad Men Era lives on through Hollywood depictions and fashion trends brought back from the past, the era has ultimately come to an end and a new chapter in the history book of sales has begun. Door-to-door sales existed before the 1970’s, but the era became known for the in-house vacuum cleaner pitch. The strategy was fairly simple: understand the capabilities of the product or service being sold and be confident in its ability to do the job at hand.
If the strategy was simple, the technique was almost artistically so. Sales professionals would make their sales pitch at the front door. If they were successful, they’d be invited in. Once they were in, they’d throw dirt on the carpet and then use the vacuum cleaner they were trying to sell to clean up the mess before the eyes of the prospect.
A lot has changed since then. But when it comes to effective selling, a lot has withstood the test of time:
You still need a sales pitch that will get you through the door.
It’s important to ask questions about the problem your prospect wants to solve. And it’s even more important to listen to the answers. Throwing dirt on the carpet still works, as long as you’re confident that you can clean it up more quickly and completely than your competitor. Over the past 40 years, most of the transformations that have taken place in the three areas listed above have been driven by technology. As a sales professional, you still need to make a case for yourself and what you’re selling at the front door – even if that front door is a phone conversation, an e-mail exchange, or an interaction that takes place over any number of social media platforms. You need to be succinct, persuasive, and confident that what you’re bringing to the table is what the other party needs.
While technology can give sales professionals an advantage that didn’t exist 40 years ago, in other ways, selling today is more challenging than it was in the 1970’s. It is easier to hang up on or delete an email from a sales rep than it is to shut the door on someone. Compounding the challenge, the average human attention span is shrinking. Recent studies show short-term response to a stimulus that attracts attention is 8 seconds. This means that if you are pitching a prospect over the phone, you have just 8 seconds to capture their attention. All this adds up to even less time to deliver the initial sales pitch, which increases the pressure to make it really, really good.
Once you’ve successfully acquired the prospect’s interest, it’s important to engage the prospect in a conversation; ask questions and get them talking. By showing a genuine interest in the challenges or problems facing your potential client and putting what you do into the context of their world, you’ll have more success when you get to the big reveal – the dirt on the carpet.
While we may not literally throw dirt on the carpet anymore, the concept is still an essential component of sales success. Before you throw the dirt, however, you need to have confidence that your product or service has what it takes to clean it up in a way that is superior to what your prospect is using today at the very least, and in a competitively superior way at best.
For more sales lessons from eras past, check out our newest infographic and return for deeper analysis and key learning’s from each era during the coming weeks.
Written by: John Reese