The new age of selling is identifying and understanding customer needs and creating solutions that deliver– satisfaction to the customers, profits to the producers, and benefits for the stakeholders.
There is a seismic shift in selling: We’re never going back, so it’s time to adapt and forge a new path to selling for your business. The way we sell and the way we do business in the 21st Century is proving to be a very different proposition from the traditions established in the 20th Century. Selling now requires a different philosophy and approach. Traditional selling is dead– confront the facts; the world has changed and we must– adapt or perish.
We are seeing the beginning of a massive restructure of transactional sales forces as customers go online; and ditch the ‘order taker’ who adds no value. Smart sales leaders know that this sacred cow is not long for this world, and has already begun planning for a major transition into the blended world of– online and strategic selling.
These leaders are choosing to invest in sales forces that educate customers on how to run a better business and achieve better results. The future of selling requires changes to keep pace with generational and cultural shifts, and the need to confront the facts or else risk becoming irrelevant.
According to the ‘Synergy Group’; the customer is king and the very center of the sales process. Best practice selling is not something we do ‘to’ customers; we cannot make their decisions for them, we can only influence their decision-making. So, what does this all mean for the modern salesperson?
It means; that the modern sales organization must undergo a significant shift in mindset; acknowledging and accepting that selling is no longer a monologue between an informed salesperson and an uninformed customer, and the ability to effectively create customers, rather than simply finding them.
In the article “Sales Trends for 2012” by Sue Barrett writes: Many of us need to rethink how we do business, how we sell and buy, how we live our lives and how we engage with the world. Economic conditions are expected to remain volatile in the foreseeable future with new challenges.
Today’s business and sales leaders will need to examine their go-to market strategies and sales force structures, as well as, demonstrate courageous leadership as they navigate these unchartered waters. For example:
- A Seismic Shift in the Way We Sell: If you were looking for things to settle down and a return to the good old days of selling… think again. There are now very few absolutes – everything is subject to evolution and reinvention. It’s no longer just about doing deals, or about developing strong relationships that go beyond great products, great service and great design. Today business is more about questions than answers; more about thinking than action; more about people than capital. It’s about getting your house in a new order because the world changes yet again and we need to change with it.
- Intuitive Customer Centric CRM: CRM moves away from being a contacts database and pipeline/forecast management tool to becoming the system that places customers at the core of a company’s operation. This means integrating marketing, sales, service and support to provide a single view of the customer as they move through the engagement life-cycle. CRM must have a simple, intuitive interface easily configured for integration to finance and legacy systems and presenting a single source of the truth concerning customers. Your CRM must also easily embed social media to aggregate all content concerning a customer…
- Make Coaching ‘The’ Priority: Regular and effective sales coaching does make a dramatic and positive difference to sales people and their sales results. Smart sales leaders make the time to invest in sales managers, making sure they are properly trained, coached and well equipped to be sales coaches. Leaders need to make sure their sales managers can get time in the field, and time offline to develop their sales people and coach them to sales success…
- Move over Fragmentation and Segmentation: Sales teams need to be more targeted in their sales planning and prospecting efforts– no more scatter gun approach. Marketing teams must stop producing catch-all marketing materials that ignore buyer preferences and attitudes… Leaders must start looking at their strategy’s evaluation measures and start measuring marketing and sales teams on those same measures. A distinct shift in attention from an internal company ‘me’ focus to an external buyer and seller ‘we’ focus, or expect to perish.
- The Polarization of Selling & Buying: A sales-driven organization must focus on helping the buyer successfully navigate and complete their journey. In the modern world, buyers’ needs are polarizing between completing simple transactions and navigating complex arrangements. In the former, the sales journey must be supported by systems and processes that make the transaction as quick and as efficient as possible. In the latter, organization’s need highly skilled people as the primary points of contact engaging in a proactive consultative approach to selling. Sales and business leaders must make brave decisions about how they structure their sales efforts, if they are to thrive and prosper.
- Field Sales Team Transition: We are seeing the beginning of a massive restructure of transactional sales forces as customers go ‘online’, and ditch the ‘order taker’ who adds no value. Smart sales leaders know that this sacred cow is not long for this world and has already begun planning for a major transition into the blended world of– online and strategic selling. These leaders are choosing to invest in sales forces that educate customers on how to run a better business and achieve better results.
- Educate and Facilitate: Smart sales leaders must develop their sales teams to be educators and facilitators, not product sales people. Providing a whole new skill set, including; patience, listening, creative problem solving and dealing with ambiguity and complexity. Customers will come to value the new and improved sales approach because the customer, not the product, is the heart of the sale. As a result, the customer becomes confident that the sales person will help them make right decisions, moving forward.
- It’s not ‘What’ but ‘Why’ & ‘How’: With customers better educated, techno-savvy and better connected than ever before, the need to articulate ‘why’ you do what you do, and ‘how’ you do what you do, is critical for differentiating your business… The ‘why’ and ‘how’ you make a difference– is front and center in the customer’s minds.
- Buyers in the Driver’s Seat: Empowered and informed by the Internet and influenced by their peers, customers have come to expect control of their buying experiences. If you are accustomed to selling products and walking away, your business will be forced to prove, ‘how’ you add real value. So don’t for a minute take customers for granted, or patronize them, or treat them like idiots, or you will hear about it via Twitter, Facebook or other social media channels where your reputation will be hung out to dry. There’s a whole new respect for transparency and buying power: Ignore this growing force– at your peril….
In the article “Emerging Sales Trends in the New Economy” by Drew J. Stevens writes: The world’s challenges are changing the essentials of selling. Over the course of nearly three decades, a dramatic shift from domestic customer bases to a multinational one has taken place. Thus, it’s vital for all selling professionals to think globally and act locally. Selling professionals must gain a better understanding of business etiquette, linguistics, mannerisms, and culture– enabling them to overcome barriers and gain better insight into customer issues.
The emergence of smarter technology– the Internet and spontaneity of information access– has morphed into knowledge. In today’s selling world ‘knowledge & content’ is king. Today’s selling professional requires a wealth of knowledge and better insight into the customer’s world, to remain competitive. Using knowledge to help the customer become more competitive; as well as, providing provocative insight that adds value to the customer’s proposition. This new era of selling requires professionals to be strategic in their account management and account planning, rather than simply selling products and services…
Change is essential to meet today’s challenges– and change is hard. The alternative, however, is even harder– it’s obsolescence and failure. According to Paul Sparks; change remains the single greatest challenge in the business environment… this is especially true for the function of selling. The last ten years, in particular, have seen the sales role come under great pressure as the tide of change alters; how we sell, and how we manage sales teams…
According to Cynthia Clark writes: There’s the mobile shift: Smart phones have revolutionized the sales experience. Geographical boundaries are virtually eliminated and today’s customers are able to– not only access information about products and services, but they can make a purchase, on-the-go, with relative ease.
According to the ‘eMarketer’ estimates; m-commerce in the U. S. was $6.7 billion in 2011, a noteworthy 91.4% increase over 2010. In 2012 mobile sales are expected to reach $11.6 billion. While the impact of smart phones and tablets on the sales process has already been substantial, it’s only the beginning. “We’ve just scratched the surface with smart phones. They’re going to be the stars of the show for the next few years,” says Emmet Keeffe.
We know social media sells: Today’s social-savvy customer is increasingly going ‘online’ to research what other people are saying about a particular product or service that their interested in purchasing. Many times the customer’s decision is influenced by online reviews and recommendations by people they don’t know; without ever reading what the company has to say about their own product.
This seismic shift has put buyers in the driver’s seat; organizations have recognized that unless they leverage social media to their advantage, it may deal them a death-blow. Then, there is the online customer: A report by Forrester stated that online sales in U.S. grew 12.6% in 2010, reaching $176.2 billion and predicted 10% compound annual growth rate until 2015. This means that companies need to be as ‘Web’ savvy as the consumers they are trying to attract.
Finally, there’s the mass extinction of sales reps who sell on features and benefits: The role of the sales rep is shifting from ‘transactional’ reps who present information, to ‘challenger’ reps who teach customers how to improve their businesses. Differentiation on features and benefits no longer works. This is no longer a game of ‘what’ you sell; it’s truly a game of ‘how’ you sell… and insights that you deliver with that sales experience…
Sales is a process, the process of building a relationship and turning a skeptic into a believer and making a stranger your friend. The elite, modern salesperson has the ability to challenge the customer– to think differently, to consider new ideas and new ways of doing things.