The Era 2 alternative started emerging in the early and middle 1970s, with Larry Wilson and his "Counselor Approach" and Mac Hanan with his "Consultative Approach" being two of the earliest proponents. The emphasis on presenting, closing, and handling objections characteristic of Era 1 is replaced in Era 2 with a focus on questioning, listening, trust, and building a relationship with the customer. You won't find any reference to listening in any Era 1 material—because listening had absolutely no relevance to the Era 1 job. The questioning techniques of Era 2 were aimed at developing an understanding of the customer's needs (defined as the difference between what the customer has and what the customer wants), and the job of the salesperson was to understand and then close that gap with his or her product, the "solution." The Era 2 approach has come to be known as "needs-satisfaction selling," and the role of the Era 2 salesperson is that of problem solver.
Because it was grounded in a Win/Win rather than a Win/Lose point of view, Era 2 has enjoyed a longer run than Era 1 did. In fact, Era 2 remains the basis for much of the training that salespeople experience even today. But as the marketplace advanced, Era 2 needed to be supplemented (rather than replaced) for two reasons:
At the business level of the complex sale, most everybody is using an Era 2 to some degree. Early in Era 2, when most salespeople were still using Era 1 techniques, a salesperson could create differentiation—and get the business—simply by taking the needs-satisfaction approach. As more and more salespeople thought of questioning, listening, and solving customer problems as part of their job, the approach itself no longer provided any differentiation.
Customers, for the most part, aren't as experienced as they need to be. Needs-satisfaction selling is based on the assumption that the customer can accurately identify and describe their problem. Whether this assumption was ever really valid is open to debate. But as the complexity of business problems and the technology of solutions have developed over the past ten or so years, it's clearly questionable today.
So Era 2 skills continue to be necessary; they're just no longer sufficient.