The Evolution of Selling Systems

The first documented selling system, developed by John Henry Patterson at NCR, used the following basic process:

  1. Present
  2. Handle the inevitable stalls and objections
  3. Close

This process held for nearly a century until a behavioral psychologist named Neil Rackham spent 12 years observing and documenting the difference between most salespeople and top salespeople. He described some of his findings in SPIN Selling, one of the great sales books of all time and the catalyst for a change to the system.

  1. Qualify
  2. Present
  3. Close

This new system started the shift toward consultative sales. The consultative selling systems proved more effective than the original for two main reasons:

  • The salesperson recovered lost time that was otherwise squandered on buyers who were not qualified.
  • The presentation is adapted with information the seller has gained from the buyer. It is a more targeted presentation, based on facts provided by the buyer.

Notice the traditional consultative approach has no step for handling stalls and objections. Most stalls and objections are the result of premature presentations. People don’t argue with their own data.

State of the Art Selling Systems

The introduction of the consultative selling was a major step forward in the sales process, but the close remained a strong component in the early days.

Neil Rackham was the first to suggest that a “Close” involving pressure or manipulation had no place in the sales process, and he was originally ridiculed for it.

A “close” is something you do TO the buyer.

Instead, co-build a Mutual Action Plan WITH the buying team.

Always be co-building. Never get ahead of the buyer.