The sales profession is extremely complex. As an example of this complexity, today’s sales teams must have an expert’s grasp of a variety of different elements, knowledge, systems, and processes. This complexity demands that the sales professional consider various impacts of the situation at an organizational and individual level.
Sales leaders must also think about and factor in the buyers unique processes, systems, tools, and culture. Through our research with 30+ top performing salespeople, we found top performers thrived while others struggled with overcoming complexity.
Some themes we heard?
Buying organizations are savvier. In 1900 the total amount of knowledge doubled every 500 years. In 1990, it was doubling every two years. The rate of change has exponentially increased and buying organizations as well as selling organizations are having a difficult time keeping up with these changes.Buyers leverage technology much more efficiently. Technology helps buyers gain information and manage partnerships in new ways.
The global economy now demands that sales professionals deal effectively in a multicultural business environment.The emergence of the buying power of women demands that sales professionals know how to work effectively with them.
Helping sales professionals develop into highly skilled and motivated change agents capable of moving at break neck speed.
Professional selling also requires leadership, consulting, learning, and educating; all the while working hard to ensure the right solution fits the right buyer at the right time. This must be accomplished with the best processes that work for the selling organization.
To achieve this , today’s sales professional must have an expert grasp of his or her organization’s products, a solid foundation of selling skills, a keen business sense, and an expert ability to manage time efficiently while maintaining composure and respecting the will of others.
Equally as important, salespeople must become expert business problem solvers and excel at listening to others, developing the right questions and building rapport. Today’s sales professionals must also be self-directed learners and have mastery in acquiring new information. They must also change themselves or their environments in the most appropriate manner. For example, salespeople have the unique ability to meet with a Director of IT for a telecommunications company in the morning, a Chief Financial Officer at a defense contractor in the late morning, and a Chief Marketing Officer of a global producer of office machines in the afternoon.
The individual who becomes the most structured and self-disciplined are likely to be the most successful in dealing with this change in today’s new Era of Professional Selling.
How then, can today’s salesperson continually assess changing facts, data, and information while developing their own professional competency?
Sales professionals must learn not to rely on their past performances and what worked last year but also must be able to think about activities in the present or the future in order to continue to keep up with the ever increasing amount of new information available to consumers and competitors alike. After understanding in great detail of what is expected of a highly competent salesperson, the next logical question "what are the trends I need to help my salespeople overcome?"
Here are the TOP 5 trends to focus on and factor into the sales strategy and training efforts:
TREND 1: Changing Markets
Globalization, competition, technology, and the changing demographics of the workforce are causing companies to rethink the way they approach the market. In many instances, sales teams are forced to become more innovative—approaching challenges in the same way may not work.
These challenges can seem concentrated on the sales team, where the nature of change to business activity can vary widely—from tightening a hiring profile to focus on top performers, launching a new business unit, acquiring global assets, or re-engineering sales team territories to focus on a vertical market, a specific geography, or a unique set of customers.
TREND 2: Continued Globalization
The globalization of the marketplace is increasing the pressure to perform in all business areas. The United Nations estimates that in 2050 the earth's human population will be 9.07 billion, and 62 percent of that population will live in Africa, Southern Asia, and Eastern Asia. Today these numbers equate to 6.62 billion total people, with 46 percent of the population living in Africa, Southern Asia, and Eastern Asia.
Seeing globalization plans increase, more companies are developing international strategies to distribute products or services and to maintain relationships globally. As organizations sell globally, understanding cultural differences has become critical to sustain relationships over the long term. The availability of information on the Internet makes accessing information easier—especially with the utilization of translation software. On the other hand, buyer’s attempting to identify the proper solution to suit their company’s needs may need personalized support in their specific region.
As businesses expand, the salespeople within them face potential language and travel barriers that require specialized knowledge to accomplish their objectives. Clearly, understanding logistical implications as well as cultural differences within the buyer-seller relationship poses a unique challenge to sales team success.
TREND 3: Increasing Competition
As businesses seek to grow, intense and often brutal competition can be a fact of business life. One prevailing thought in many organizations remains: Marketing is largely about strategy while selling is about tactical execution. But fierce competition challenges this paradigm and more sales managers are recognizing the need for strategic approaches to today’s selling challenges. For example, response-driven direct marketing campaigns are now measured by revenue acquired while at the same time, front line sales managers are asked to shift client relationships by utilizing a portfolio management strategy to the lowest possible relationship level.
In many companies, the salesperson is considered the front line. Yet until recently, many sales managers received no specific training. In order to remain competitive, sales organizations must enable a strategy from the customer’s point of view. Doing so will allow them to set realistic objectives, design new strategies that add real customer value, avoid wasting time on price-oriented customers, and deploy resources for maximum results.
The ability for sales team members to respond to competitive threats while managing and allocating internal resources remains a difficult task—especially since the selling environment has become more competitive.
TREND 4: Embracing Technology
Many selling leaders have embraced the fact that the age of real-time contact is upon us. These organizations leverage technology to facilitate timely, accurate, and real-time communication with clients. More traditional phone, mail, and email methods have been improved and hand-held devices, mobile computers, instant messaging, social networking, unified messaging, and search engines have increased the amount of information that buyers and sellers have at the fingertips. In short, accessing pertinent sales information, and lots of it, is relatively easy.
While the organization’s ability to create and disseminate knowledge has increased rapidly in recent years, the ability of individuals to process and retain such information has been stretched to the limit, which is making the salesperson’s role as a trusted adviser -- critical to the buying and selling organization.
Today’s salesperson has begun to realize that the difference between a buyer making informed decisions and intelligent decisions requires them to apply more rigorous decision-making criteria for all but the most routine purchase. While many individuals have increased their technological capabilities to cope with the increased information created, the personal time allotted to communicating about such knowledge has decreased, which is making the personal and customized messaging extremely important to the success of the selling organization. These types of messages and the manner in which they are delivered are becoming more critical to the long-term effectiveness of any selling organization.
Despite this trend, the Internet and popular press is replete with articles about the gap between marketing and selling organizations, over-the-top advertising campaigns, and the increasing frustration over reaching potential decision-makers to grow sales.
TREND 5: Generational Differences
Individual employee-supervisor relationships are changing many aspects of work. Organizations are re-engineered to be less hierarchical. Within the sales organization, sales training is evolving to include more sales coaching and self-directed learning methodologies.
According to the book Generation Me by Jeane Twenge, the new generation (commonly referred to as Gen Y or Millennials) take pride in their work, and believe they can bring an immediate impact to their organization. As a result, they resent being talked down to, isolated, or trivialized. These trends require a shift in how many sales managers approach their job and also call for a less rigid, non-hierarchical sales organization that encourages independence and shared authority.
Many of today's younger workers are forcing these types of changes in their sales team, causing a ripple effect in talent management, leadership development, and overall organizational performance strategies. Simply put, sales managers must be willing to let go of what has made them successful in previous years and embrace what will make them successful in the years to come.
About Growth Matters Growth Matters is a international business founded in 2011. This consulting and services organization is focused on the development and practice of sales management and sales enablement, our team of world-renowned experts spans the globe enabling businesses to improve sales conversations through services and solutions aligned to sales strategy. Our Americas operation is headquartered in Charlotte, NC (USA). With dedicated offices in South Africa (EMEA), and Sydney (APAC), we regularly facilitate senior-level workshops in 17+ cities in countries. For more information on equipping sales managers, and aligning to sales leadership, contact the Growth Matters team at http://www.growthmatters.today
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