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Prescriptive Selling

By: Dave Brock


Prescriptive Selling

I’m seeing a trend toward increasing prescription in selling. By that, I mean marketing, sales enablement, or management are prescribing the activities, actions, scripts, conversations their people should be having. Many of the new technologies seem very focused at providing prescriptive guidance to the conversations sales people have with prospects and customers.

At its simplest level, it is “Do this, don’t do that…”

At much higher levels, there are very richly scripted conversations–which must be working at some level, otherwise why would they be so popular. Most of the situations I see these applied to are transactional types of buying, or focused on a very specific program.

I wonder about this approach, however, particularly the ability to achieve long term growth and success in complex B2B discussions.

When we talk about effective coaching, we always contrast the “non-directive” and “directive” techniques. Non-directive focus on getting the person to think critically about a situation, to assess, evaluate, and develop their own answers and approaches. It’s based on the principle, “Give a person a fish and they eat for a day, teach a person to fish and they eat for a lifetime.” Non-directive coaching is very powerful in developing the long term capability of sales people to figure things out themselves.

By contrast, “Directive” techniques are precisely that. The sales person is told exactly what to do and expected to execute with precision. Experts say, directive techniques are problematic. First, the direction has to be precisely on target, otherwise the person is likely to fail. Second, is the issue of ownership. The sales person has less ownership in the outcomes. Third, it doesn’t grow the capabilities of sales people, they can only do what they are told to do and don’t have the ability to do more. Fourth, it builds resentment in the individual. People don’t like being told what to do, particularly those developing as professionals.

As I reflect on what we are trying to achieve in developing our people, coaching, teaching, and developing them to achieve higher levels of performance—and the current trend for highly prescriptive sales enablement, they seem completely at odds.

Perhaps that’s good.

Prescriptive selling works, at some level, it would be silly to disregard this. I worry about the trends I’m seeing in sales tools, marketing and sales enablement in trying to slam highly prescriptive approaches to everything our sales people do. I don’t believe it enables us to create the greatest value for our customers. I don’t believe it develops deep strength and capability in our people.

Am I missing something?

Published: June 16, 2016

Source: Partners in Excellence

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Dave Brock

Dave Brock is the founder of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a consulting and services company helping to improve the effectiveness of business professionals with strategy development, organizational planning, and implementation. Dave has spent his career working for and with high performance organizations, ranging from the Fortune 25 to startups, including companies such as IBM, HP, Nokia, AT&T, Microsoft, General Electric, and many, many more. The work Dave does with business strategies is closely tied to personal effectiveness of the people in the organization. As a result, Dave is deeply involved in the development of a number of training and coaching programs.

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