Times change, and the sales environment is no exception. There are different challenges today to those of yesterday. In order to rise to the demands of these ever moving circumstances, we have to ask ourselves one simple, yet loaded, question: Where do we want our sales teams to be?
In these oscillating climes businesses should strive to maintain a sense of reliability and steadiness in their business standards. This involves delivering against a statement of needs; forming and leveraging relationships; and playing an active role in the project management of customer and stakeholder relations through their buying process. The implementation of this best practice, and the ‘how to’ of its execution, will vary according to business types.
As a result of increasing connectivity, customers are better informed before they actively seek engagement with business professionals and their products or services. Ergo, it’s more important than ever to place yourself, as a seller, in the most knowledgeable position possible. What market knowledge does your prospective customer have? Where are they in the buying cycle? Is there someone in pole position? How can your business differentiate itself from the competition?
There have been reams and reams of text written about this changing sales environment – No respectable business consultant could resist the opportunity to comment. Very few, though, paid special attention to the fact that no two sales environments are ever the same: Markets have differing characteristics and your positioning will be different to that of your competitors. Beware the purveyor of the one suit fits all sales solution. You must constantly question whether your sales teams are equipped to compete in this new world.
I recall my early days at Xerox: As a sales person, I was taught the difference between sales reps and sales people. Whilst is was a manufactured point, its logic has always stuck with me: Sales reps, so we were informed, were walking talking product brochures. Sales people, on the other hand, were business people. Able to play their part engaging with stakeholders, they understood customer environments, were experts in their products and services and the value they delivered, and thoroughly understood the markets they served. The point was summarised by saying that Xerox had sales people that added value to the customer and were not there simply to facilitate the interaction between buying and selling.
My point, given that times are changing, is that the role of the sales brochure should be assigned to marketing. And, instead of product specs and feature, advantage, benefit statements, our sales teams ought to start their engagement with an audit of customer needs and an in-depth understanding of where they are in the buying process. Only then can they start to plan a sales campaign that is immediately relevant in the eyes of the customer. Woe betide the sales person who forces their customer to back track because they are not up to speed with them in their buying process.
Marketing’s role is not just about creating leads for sales people. It now includes taking customers part way along the sales process, and differentiating their business through engagement with not just the market but with prospective buyers as they begin their selection.
Sales Operations’ role is to create the environment for sales people to be up to speed with their customers through a blend of process management, sales training, and systems support.
So, where do we want our Sales teams to be? You would expect SalesMethods to have done its work on that front and, without trying to pigeon hole sales teams, we reckon sales people need to be experts in how to sell in their markets, knowledgeable about their products and customers, and connected to the key decision makers. Committed to up skilling in terms of market and product knowledge and sales competency, adding value to the customer from the ‘get go’, and being a true business partner through the sales process.
Where do you want your sales team to be?