Modern Sales Approach vs Traditional Selling

Balancing Traditional Selling vs. The Modern Sales Approach

There are many misconceptions about modern selling. Some sales leaders immediately disregard the principles, claiming it is just another buzzword. Others are caught in the constant grind of achieving quota and cannot fathom trying to implement a new sales plan. And while there are others who understand the benefits of a modern sales approach, they are unable to secure executive buy-in, and therefore struggle to enforce the techniques with their team.

These barriers hurt the long-term success of sales teams because of one truth: the modern buyer has changed their decision-making process.

The modern buyer has a longer journey that involves more decision-makers. They engage less frequently with sellers and when they do, it is much later in the sales cycle. Mainly, they do not want to be sold to. Instead, the modern buyer seeks to be educated about solutions to their business challenges, and aspects they may have missed while identifying their needs.

To meet these expectations, modern selling leverages new tools and techniques, such as social selling and virtual selling, to achieve the same goal as traditional selling: create more sales conversations and increase win rates.

Continue reading to learn the definition of a modern selling approach, how it can be combined with traditional sales techniques, and the benefits of implementing a modern selling strategy with your team.

What Is the Modern Sales Approach?

It combines new tools and modern sales techniques, such as digital selling and social selling, to find, engage, and connect with potential customers and achieve modern sales success.

Modern selling begins with a change in mindset for sellers, sales leaders, and executives. They must understand that the modern buyer has changed the buying process and the traditional sales methods no longer produce the same results. Only after a change in mindset will they be receptive to new techniques to reach the modern buyer.

Once sales professionals have changed their mindset, then it is time to begin changing their behavior. At this point, many sales organizations believe it is time to implement a virtual sales training program led by an instructor. However, that comes after you’ve properly planned for the training to ensure new techniques are implemented (more on this later).

Instead of training, first you must arm sales reps with a LinkedIn profile optimization. Instead of reading like a resume (which does nothing to earn the trust of prospects because it appears as though sellers are seeking new opportunities), a branded LinkedIn profile should include buyer-centric messaging that reveals who they help, how they help, and who they’ve helped in the past.

A buyer-centric LinkedIn® profile serves as a foundation that prepares a seller for training to implement new modern sales techniques. However, as mentioned earlier, modern selling is not designed to replace traditional selling activities. In fact, many of the techniques overlap and work cohesively, rather than independently.

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Traditional vs. Modern Sales Approaches

Many organizations have yet to embrace modern selling techniques and have not included them in their sales plan. Consequently, they still use traditional sales techniques to reach the modern buyer. While some have more success than others, as Millennials continue to replace Boomers in leadership positions, it is unlikely that success will continue.

To meet the demands of the modern buyer, these organizations should combine successful traditional sales methods with a modern selling approach that is designed to find, engage, and connect with prospective customers.

Below we compare three examples of traditional selling and modern selling techniques, as well as how to effectively combine the two to enable sellers to create more sales conversations.

#1 Finding Your Ideal Audience

Traditional: Sales prospecting prior to the internet included scouting directories, knocking on every door in an office park, cold calling, and attending conferences. These activities were time-consuming and often required traveling, which cost sales professionals valuable time that could be spent building more relationships.

Modern: Today’s B2B buyers can be found on social platforms. LinkedIn® alone has over 800 million users, which means sellers can find target buyers by using search filters and saving sales leads lists. There are even more search filters available in Sales Navigator, allowing reps to follow the activities of prospects who fit their ideal customer profile.

How to use both: In many industries and in many sales cycles, traditional methods of connecting with prospects are still valuable. However, effective prospecting requires a combination of traditional and modern methods. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Sellers must leverage different tools and develop a sales cadence to identify which approach works best for a particular buyer.

For instance, sellers attending a conference can identify prospects they’d like to meet, then reach out to them on LinkedIn® or other social platforms to develop an online relationship. At this point, it would be completely natural to schedule a meeting while attending the same conference.

Additionally, if cold calling still works for your organization, sellers can view the LinkedIn® profile before calling to show they have done some research.

Also, make sure you check out our tips for creating the perfect cold calling scripts!

#2 Engaging Target Buyers

Traditional: Once identified, the traditional methods of engaging prospects included phone calls, emails, and scheduled meetings, whether in person or over the phone. Again, the main element of these interactions is time. Unscheduled phone calls and emails demand the buyer’s attention and in-person meetings require travel time.

Modern: The modern techniques include liking and commenting on the prospect’s social posts. Sellers can also share content with a prospect that addresses their business challenges. These techniques allow buyers to engage with sellers when it is convenient for them, not the other way around.

Similarly, reps can follow companies to see recent news such as a new round of funding, an acquisition, or new C-level executives. Then, sellers can engage a potential customer using the PVC Sales Methodology TM, which incorporates three key factors:

  1. Personalization
  2. Value
  3. Call-to-action

Through this messaging strategy, sellers can personalize their outreach by referring to news about the prospect’s company, add a specific piece of content that addresses the challenges they face, and a soft call-to-action to induce a response.

How to use both: Modern selling techniques often achieve more success at this stage because they leverage tools that previously did not exist. Regardless of the tools used, the goal is the same: sellers should attempt to build a long-term relationship with a prospect built on trust by providing value.

This includes asking qualifying questions to better understand their specific business challenges, providing content that addresses those pain points, and identifying the concerns of the other members of a buying committee.

However, the best methods of achieving these goals now are through social selling ideas on digital channels to provide buyers the flexibility to respond when it is convenient to them, not by pestering them with unscheduled phone calls.

Balance traditional selling techniques and #ModernSales approaches to find, engage, and connect with qualified prospects! @KurtShaver #ModernSelling #Leadership #DigitalSales Click To Tweet

#3 Connecting with Prospects

Traditional: At this point, sellers using traditional methods scheduled in-person meetings, whether a cup of coffee, dinner, or meeting at the office. Again, this required time, travel, and added expenses, plus the opportunity cost of the time investment. These sales conversations were designed to continue nurturing prospects, identifying their needs, and building the relationship.

Modern: The internet and social media have changed the methods used to achieve the same goals. As the buying process has changed, there are many more steps to this process and many more decision-makers to include.

Instead of having to travel for in-person meetings, sellers can continue leveraging digital channels to provide content that addresses the buyer’s business challenges. Then, they can schedule a sales conversation, which is a natural next step after they’ve continued to provide value.

How to use both: Digital channels provide additional opportunities for sellers to develop long-term relationships with decision-makers without having to travel and meet in person.

For instance, sellers can connect through LinkedIn® to share a recent article regarding industry trends. After a sales conversation, sellers can leverage your sales enablement platform (or connect with marketing) to identify which piece of internal content they should share that addresses the buyer’s concerns.


Tying the Modern Sales Approach and Traditional Sales Approach Together

The key is that there is no longer one ‘best’ method to find, engage, and connect with prospects. It is essential for sales leaders to provide specific techniques to sellers so they engage with prospects in the best manner for your market segment and for that particular company.

Plus, by leveraging social selling tools, such as your CRM and sales conversation recordings, you can provide cold hard data supporting the success of certain techniques over others. Additionally, sales enablement platforms can easily store and organize content for sellers to share with specific personas at different stages of the buyer’s journey.

As reps apply these additional insights, they’ll have a better understanding of the techniques to use to fill their sales pipeline, throughout the buyer’s journey, and with specific personas.

There is no longer one “best” method to find, engage and connect with #prospects. Blending a #ModernSales approach with traditional #sales strategies helps sellers fill their pipeline. @KurtShaver #Business #BestAdvice Click To Tweet

I’ve already mentioned how you can blend traditional and modern sales methods in regards to prospecting activities. Now, I’ll share two practical examples:

Traditional → Modern

Let’s say two reps attend a trade show sales where they meet three new prospects. They discuss their pain points and current business challenges. The reps share some examples of how your solutions have helped other companies in a similar situation. This is a traditional method that is still common and when done properly, can be successful. It is even more successful when sellers leverage modern selling techniques to follow up.

Shortly after the conversation, your reps should send a connection request on LinkedIn® with a message referencing how they met and what was discussed during the event. These details help for two reasons:

  1. Increases the likelihood of an accepted connection request.
  2. Documents how you met this connection so that you can reference later in your LinkedIn® message history.

Again, as with all messaging, this is when your sellers should apply the PVC Sales MethodologyTM mentioned earlier. By personalizing their message with details about how they met, adding a piece of content that addresses some of the topics discussed, and by offering a soft CTA, (such as, “Do you think any of these apply to your business?”), your seller establishes that they are trustworthy (they listened and remembered the conversation) and that they provide value without trying to sell (by sharing content tailored to their concerns).

This modern selling approach helps buyers understand that your sellers strive to address their business challenges, easing their concerns. After all, everyone feels bombarded with spammy messages and hard sells before building a relationship. When sellers provide value and develop trust, the modern buyer is more likely to engage.

Modern → Traditional

LinkedIn boolean search enable reps to find your company’s ideal buyers by narrowing their search to specific titles, locations, industries, and others. LinkedIn Sales Navigator has even more options available to find warm leads, such as filtering second-degree connections who follow your company on LinkedIn®.

Once identified, your reps now have a targeted list of prospects where they can focus their attention. They can engage on their posts and add insights to establish credibility.

However, the ultimate goal isn’t to build a relationship. It’s to make a sale. Effective modern sellers know better than to try to sell on social media.

Once they’ve established a relationship, sellers need to convert these online connections into sales conversations. That is the traditional method of selling: having sales conversations with qualified prospects to continue identifying their need, their sense of urgency, the number of decision-makers involved, their budget, and their buying process.

This part of sales hasn’t changed, regardless of the tools you use to identify prospects, to build a relationship, and to continue nurturing them through their purchasing process.

Benefits of Modern Selling

The modern seller has learned how to leverage technology to engage with prospects and nurture them along their buyer’s journey. By regularly sharing content, engaging on the posts of others, and building their personal brand, sellers attract prospects to connect with them.

Some of the other benefits of a modern sales approach are:

  1. Easily search for and identify prospects.
  2. Develop thought leadership.
  3. Provide valuable content to prospects to build long-term relationships.
  4. Engage with prospects.
  5. Continue relationships with existing customers to generate more referrals.

Modern selling also equips reps with valuable information about prospects they can use to engage in conversations. Just like way in the past (20 years ago), when reps knocked on every door in an office park hoping to sit down with one person, they would pick up on cues.

For instance, how an office was decorated revealed the personality of the individual. Were there children’s drawings taped to the wall? Were there sports memorabilia in the office or pictures from all around the world? These cues provided sellers “conversation starters” to build rapport.

#ModernSelling has many benefits to a #sales organization, such as nurturing relationships with existing #customers to generate more referrals. Discover the other benefits and how to implement a #ModernSales strategy from @KurtShaver! Click To Tweet

The same technique applies today, only online. By following a prospect on Twitter or reviewing their LinkedIn® profile and recent posts, sellers can identify things a prospect is passionate about. Even if prospects aren’t active on social media platforms, most still follow industry leaders, companies, or publications. These are listed near the bottom of someone’s LinkedIn® profile.

This type of information can be incorporated into a seller’s first message to show that he or she has done their homework and hasn’t sent a spammy templated message to all their connections.

During our Selling with LinkedIn® training program, we provide sales teams messaging scripts they can use to reach out to cold prospects and in response to trigger events, such as someone viewing their profile.


Leveraging Digital Sales Training to Transform into a Modern Sales Organization

Most organizations succeed by combining traditional and modern selling approaches. However, transforming into a modern sales organization is not as simple as snapping your fingers and deciding to change your company’s sales strategy.

First, you must secure executive buy-in. This is an essential step because without support from C-Level executives, the modern selling techniques will not be implemented and reinforced.

Once executive buy-in is secured, many organizations believe the next step is to begin digital sales training.


Instead, the next step is preparing sellers for the training. This includes identifying target buyer personas, creating messaging scripts, and transforming sellers’ social media profiles to address buyer’s pain points. It also includes working with sales enablement to identify content targeted to different personas at different stages of the buyer’s journey.

Then, your team is ready for training. While some are shocked that training is step #7 on our 10 Steps to Launching a Digital Sales program (especially because we are a digital sales training company), that is the best way to successfully change the mindset and the behavior of sellers. If you attempt training them too early in the process, sellers will revert back to old behaviors once they struggle. Then, your organization has once again wasted valuable budget on another sales training that didn’t move the needle.

Transforming into a #ModernSales organization requires executive buy-in, preparation and #DigitalSelling training. Learn more from @KurtShaver. #Sales #SalesEnablement Click To Tweet

Does Your Team Consist of Modern Sellers?

The buying process has changed. The modern buyer doesn’t want to be sold to, they want to be educated. To adapt and meet the demands of the modern buyer, sellers must leverage digital platforms to find, engage, and connect with buyers. By implementing a modern selling approach, your sales organization shares content, builds relationships, and nurtures prospects.

Is your team leveraging modern selling techniques? Assess your team’s current digital selling skills to learn how they engage the modern buyer. Get your Digital Selling Benchmark Assessment to discover where your team stands.


1 thought on “Balancing Traditional Selling vs. The Modern Sales Approach”

  1. This is an exceptional blog post – well done. I am going to re-post it on LinkedIn as it will hopefully nudge some traditional sales people into evolving, instead of berating them.

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