Has the Process of Selling Changed Since 1981?

As a Sales Leader, how confident are you that your sales team, individually and collectively are applying an effective sales process in this disruptive world of change, competition and diminishing levels of trust?

If you’ll allow me to go a bit ‘boffinish’, one of the most referenced sales process identified in an historic search of evidence-based research articles, is Dubinsky’s 1981 seven stage process consisting of:
(1) prospecting,
(2) pre-approach,
(3) approach,
(4) presentation,
(5) overcoming objections,
(6) close, and
(7) follow-up.

But since 1981, we’ve experienced and continue to experience disruptions in business including:
The Internet and Digitalization, Data Analytics, Social Media, E-commerce, Artificial Intelligence, Account-Based Marketing, Client Collaboration, Mobile Technology, and a focus on Sustainability, just to name a few.

Surely these disruptions require a change to the sales process.

Well … no … not really.

Under whatever ‘spin’ of Dubinsky’s original sales process (including my own BASICS of Selling six step trust-based sales approach of Build rapport, Ask questions, Show value, Identify obstacles, Confirm next steps and Stay in Touch, this well-researched and effective sales process remains intact in today’s competitive and disruptive world.

Do Your Customers Trust You?

What has changed however, in business to business and in personal buying situations, is the focus customers now place on how they determine who they can trust.

Your salespeople are more than likely selling in a world of price and product parity. As a sales leader, don’t underestimate how difficult that is for them!

For most businesses today, the reality is competitors can produce what you produce for about the same cost, with about the same quality and sell for about the same price.

So how do salespeople differentiate under such competitive conditions?

The answer is Trustworthiness!

So, the big question for sales leaders is this: Are your salespeople (as windows to your business) worthy of your customers’ trust?

Trustworthiness is determined by a customer’s perception of each salesperson’s competence, character, and consistency.

Competence – do customers perceive the salesperson has the necessary skills, knowledge, products, or services to help them be more comfortable and confident in their buying decisions?

Character – do customers perceive the salesperson has the customers best interest at top of mind … that the salesperson has a genuine intention to make life better for the customer in some way?

Consistency – do customers perceive a consistency in the salesperson (or salespeople’s) competence and character throughout their complete buying journey?

While a sales process is still essential, working on the trustworthiness and intentions of your salespeople will fast-track your sales success.


Alan J. Dubinsky (1981) A Factor Analytic Study of the Personal Selling Process, Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 1:1, 26-33

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