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Opinion: Outside sales has changed — have you?

The Strategic Suite

Posted online

I have worked in outside sales for over 20 years. Those who have committed their careers to it will tell you what they love the most – helping people solve problems, building relationships and interacting with others. No day is the same and you have an amazing freedom to interact with others in many different environments.

The Springfield Business Journal sales team has nearly 100 years of combined outside sales experience. You’ve seen them at our events; they hustle and bustle to meet all the movers and shakers out there.

But you can add up all those years of experiences, and that doesn’t change the fact there’s never been a more transformative moment in such a short period of time in the sales industry. I know it has been the same for other industries and careers. Like those industries, we have to change immediately to thrive. We don’t have a choice.

The job description for most salespeople was different on March 1, 2020, than it was a month later when the stay-at-home order took effect. Outside salespeople that depend on networking events, face-to-face calls, in-person presentations, drop-ins, lunches, coffee meetings and team huddles were left to figure it all out on a Zoom call. As outside salespeople, we felt like opportunities were stripped away and the industry we loved turned upside down leaving us with a new job description we didn’t agree to taking.

Before the pandemic, I conducted a key account training session where I cited a study from the Rain Group. The study identified the specific attributes of salespeople who won the sale versus the behaviors of the second placed finisher who didn’t get the sale.

Consistently, the Top 3 most cited behaviors buyers attributed to the winners were No. 1, Educated me with new ideas; No. 2, Collaborated with me; and No. 3, Persuaded me we would achieve results.

Of the 42 attributes measured, the second-place salespeople were scored this way on those same attributes: Educated me with new ideas, at No. 42; Collaborated with me, at No. 26; and Persuaded me we would achieve results, at No. 41 The difference is clear. Winners are in the idea business and the second-place finishers are losing for that reason. You can find the white paper, titled “What Sales Winner Do Differently” at

I share this for all the lonely outside salespeople who are struggling and missing the way things were. I’m right there with you. There’s nothing more in my professional life that I’d like to do than go to a big, crowded networking event. Many salespeople may be feeling like they have lost their effectiveness because they can’t do what they love.

But buyers don’t buy because they like to be in person. They buy because they have a need and are willing to address it. Focusing on ideas, collaboration and achieving results is the silver lining right now. Businesses have tremendous needs and huge problems to be solved.

I’m tired of Zoom calls, bad internet service and my cat walking across my keyboard. But it is what it is.

If you are down because you can’t see people in person and you hate the virtual meeting video boxes and you are having a hard time selling right now, be careful going down the spiral of missing opportunities. Outside sales has changed. Focus on the positive and look for ways to build your brand, connect in different ways and stand out from your competition. Consider ways you can talk to your customers and prospects without being in front of them. Read books about virtual selling. Learn tactics to connect with people in new ways and create opportunities to learn what they need, offer ideas and focus on results. You can do that through a Zoom call. As Einstein said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

Springfield Business Journal Associate Publisher 
Marty Goodnight can be reached at


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