I'm somewhat distressed the article that appeared in the January 28, 2008 issue of the Wall Street Journal. It was the column on Theory and Practice, entitled: Next In Line For Reinvention: The Art Of Selling. Both the author of the article, Phred Dvorak, and the author of the Book, Ram Charan seem to have discovered the secret to selling: finding a customer with a problem that you can solve and helping him solve it. What a tremendous insight!
I'm sorry, I don't like to trash others, particularly Dr. Charan. I have liked some of his past books. But have he or Mr. Dvorak bothered to study professional selling literature of the past 20 years? The notion of solution, customer focused, or consultative selling has been the subject of numerous books, articles, and consultant speeches. The words: value proposition, solution focus, customer oriented roll glibly off the tongues of any sales person.
Unfortunately, none of the ideas in the article are new or innovative. They have long been at the core of professional selling. Given Dr. Charan's past books, it would have been more interesting not to re-hash of these ideas, but to focus on examining why companies struggle in the execution of these ideas.
We have worked on these issues for the past fifteen years. The "theory and practice" of solution and consultative selling is not at question in any organization that we have worked with. The struggle of implementing these ideas, sustaining performance, growing and improving are the issues that sales executives and CEO's struggle with. It's time to have a meaningful discussion about execution.
Perhaps even more disappointing than the article is that the article was one of the most emailed articles in the WSJ. Do these people emailing the article think they have stumbled on a new insight? The science and practice of professional selling is in trouble if they do.