From Snake Oil to Solutions: The Evolution of Sales Development Coaching

How Sales Development Coaching Methodologies Have Evolved

sales-development-coachingSales training has been around since the late 1800s. After the industrial revolution brought new, more efficient ways for factories to build products for the masses, salesmen began to pop up everywhere. It wasn’t long before sales training programs followed. These programs taught salesmen “tricks” like how to stand, how to hand over a pen when closing a deal, and other effective body language skills.

Early Sales Development Coaching

In the early 20th century, sales developed its stereotype. Early trainers such as Tom Hopkins, Arthur Sheldon, and Elmer Wheeler taught the art of salesmanship with coaching seminars and training classes on how to sell when the customer says no, and Wheeler popularized the phrase, “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle!” in the 1930s. In the same decade, Dale Carnegie published his successful book, “How to Make Friends and Influence People,” which many executives and sales professionals continue to cite to this day.

Sales training in the 19th and 20th centuries went through a number of style fluctuations from decade to decade. The selling method (snake oil selling) in the 1800s was based on misrepresentation and the idea that you can say anything you want about a product, as long as it seals the deal.

Pyramid selling (identifying and targeting decision-makers) began in 1886. From there, trust-based selling, mood or emotion selling, brand selling, and many more techniques started to develop, increasing the complexity associated with the trade. Each distinctive method had its proponents, who capitalized on selling the method to sales professionals across an increasing number of industries.

Technology Enters the Space

As early as the mid-1950s, vinyl records were being released to help salespeople learn the art of the trade. Cassettes and videos soon followed, helping professionals identify methodologies, techniques for closing a deal, and understanding the psychology of the sales interaction. Now, sales professionals have their choice of media for learning more about the industry. Sales organizations and coaches offer classroom experiences, online learning, podcasts, articles and blog posts, and one-on-one coaching. Some focus on a particular aspect of sales, while others offer tips about handling the sales experience.

Over the years, sales training evolved to encompass more than tricks of the trade or one particular sales method. The industry combines a rich history of methodology to blend art and science. Today, sales training improves techniques, skillsets, and sales style development. It focuses on individualized sales styles and constantly fluctuates. Success looks different from person to person. There are as many successful approaches to sales as there are sales development coaching books on the market today. A successful coach has the intuition and sales expertise to unlock the potential of each sales representative that comes in for training.

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