“Used Car” Sales vs Business Development?

When I was in business school and subsequently earning my MBA in the early ’90s, sales was still sales. The practice of “selling” was something that you just picked up from watching people around you, or perhaps using some canned sales presentation with a flip-chart.  I knew back then that I wanted to be a salesperson, because I did not see myself sitting at a desk earning a paycheck all day long, but I must confess that I had an image of a salesman as being a “slick-talking, fast-walking, shoes shined used car salesman”.  Here is a clip of one of my favorite sales movies of all time, Used Cars:

The used car salesman in this clip is “Jeff” (played by Gerrit Graham) and while he made the sale (through deception), ultimately was not effective because he did not earn the trust of the buyer for a long -term business relationship.  He realizes that this family man is overwhelmed with rowdy kids and convinces him to test drive a station wagon, but doesn’t engage the prospect in a conversation; it is mainly Jeff talking. To be successful in sales today, a good salesperson must be a “business developer”. Unlike the old paradigm of selling, which was “Always be Closing”, business development is focused on creating a long-term relationship with a customer and finding opportunities to cross-sell other products or services, “Always be Opening”.

So if you are a business developer for your company, remember that the key is to engage your prospect in a conversation, use probing questions to uncover needs, and create a long -term relationship that benefits both of you.