'People continue to sell as if they were in a quaint Norman Rockwell painting. That no longer works like it used to."

Instead, says Rich Farrell, president of Tangent Knowledge Systems and author of the book "Selling has Nothing to do with Selling," a salesperson should play the role of a "change agent" rather than the more typical product-centric transactional approach.

Sales people have always been valued as a resource for information. But today, whether it's true or not, customers now perceive that they can get this information elsewhere, with a few clicks of the computer keys.

That's why it's time for salespeople to create a new value proposition, he says. "That's no longer giving information, it's getting information."

Farrell says today it's about understanding the customer, about having a conversation with the customer about their situation and whether or not you can uniquely help that customer.

The customer cares about themselves, not about your company. Yet most salespeople, Farrell says, love to talk about themselves, their own company, their own product.

"We're wasting valuable time giving customers information they don't really are about. What they really care about is, 'Mr. Salesperson, do you really care enough about my business to ask questions and find out what I care about, what keeps me up at night?'"

A Different Way

Farrell offers an alternative selling process, which he says is simple, but not easy.

"My process gets to the truth quickly," he said. "But the downside of getting to the truth quickly is you might get rejection, or you might get realistic information that this deal is not going to be positive information. And then you get something worse than having someone jack you around: having to do new business development."

1. Create trust. Farrell suggests something like this: "Lee, thanks for inviting me today. I'm not sure if I can help you; what I'd like to do is ask you some questions. I know you'll have some questions to ask of me, and at the end of the meeting hopefully we'll determine if it's a good fit. If it's not, at the end of the meeting, feel free to tell me no and I'll graciously get out of your way."

Salespeople need to give up control to get control, Farrell says.

Even if you know in advance what the prospect's problems are, you must allow him or her to verbalize it. If the salesperson has not taken the time to let the prospect verbalize their pain, the salesperson won't gain the trust to address it.

2. Create a motive for change. People buy either for gain / advantage / benefit / opportunity / success, or they buy to address pain / insecurity / dissatisfaction / fear. '

"People will run twice as fast to avoid something than to gain something. You have to find out what they have to lose before you find out what they have to gain," Farrell says.

"People buy emotionally. Don't tell customers why you're different or why they should buy from you. Simply tell them the problems you address and the problems you fix."

3. Investment. You have to understand what they are willing to invest, in time, resources, and budget.

4. Understand their decision-making process. Does the person you're talking to have the authority to make the decision?

5. Pre-commitment. After finding out what their problems are, say, "I'd like to come back and give you a presentation" with more details on how you can help them avoid or solve those problems. Time it according to their willingness to change.

6. Solution/presentation. The best presentation is no presentation at all.

7. After-sale reality check. You have to manage future expectations.

Farrell calls closing "a non-event." The real event, he says, is opening. Opening is where 90 percent of all sales are won or lost. In fact, he said, salespeople should avoid closing the sale at all costs and have the customer close themselves.

What is more valuable and realistic than closing is seeking the truth. The truth will help you decide if closure is realistic. The more space and freedom you give your clients the opportunity to say "no," the less inclined they are to use it as a response.

In the past, the prevailing wisdom was that people buy from people they like. That's why salespeople traditionally put so much time, effort and money into entertaining.

Today, according to Tangent, the new tenet is people buy from people they like - but more importantly, they buy from people they believe have taken the time, have the patience, the expertise, and care enough to really learn about their business, their vision, and their problems in a way few others could.