The only constant in life is change. And the sales game is certainly doing its share of changing.
One of the biggest shifts seems to be in the buyer/seller relationship. Research shows that buyers are not reaching out to contact salespeople and sales organizations until they’re 60-70 percent along in the decision process.
Instead of contacting a salesperson, customers today are going online first . “I know that the minute I come up with a question or a problem, I go to Google, and I type in what I’m looking for. This puts salespeople in a real one-down position because suddenly they’re no longer needed for their product or service knowledge. Instead, they find themselves constantly getting involved in price battles.”
What sales managers can do to help their team be successful in this ever-changing environment?
You need to rethink how you do things. Sales managers need to be the change agents out there. The reality is that in many cases our products or services are no longer the differentiator. The sales person is now the differentiator. The customer must like the interaction with the salesperson. They always asking: Is this individual adding value? Are they constantly bringing me ideas, insights and information that can help me run my business better?”
This change in strategy means sales people need to know a whole lot more about their customers and the people making buying decisions. What are the buyer’s business objectives? What are their roles and responsibilities? What’s their status quo? What might be preventing them from making a change?
You need a more in-depth view of buyers. “Salespeople need to be business analysts and idea providers, as opposed to product pitchers or just trying to make a sale. This is a real switch from the past and the genesis of a sales manager’s job today.”
Experts like Jill Konrath author of “Snap Selling” believe one of the most important jobs of today’s sales managers is to coach their salespeople. It’s not enough to pep them up and motivate them. She suggests that they go out with them on sales calls and see what kind of research they’ve done to prepare for each call. They may need to be doing a lot more preparation.
“You have to be constantly working with them to improve and become better,” Jill states in her book. “There are not enough A players to go around. You have a whole slew of B and C performers, and a sales manager’s job is to get them to improve. Coach, coach and coach your sales people. It makes the biggest difference in the world.”
The other thing that sales managers must do to be successful, according to Jill, is to get more and better prospects. Sales managers have to work much more closely with marketing staff than ever before, and they have to educate them.
“The last thing salespeople need are a bunch of crummy old leads from people who aren’t really interested,” Jill said. “Sales managers need to work with marketing to clearly define who makes a good prospect – what kinds of companies, what positions and what issues, needs and concerns they might be facing. Equally important is the need to turn the company’s website into a hub of great information that will attract these people.”
I was recently sent a book from my Head office “What Would Google Do” (Jeff Jarvis”) although now a little on the dated side, many great points about a major change in mindset as well as strategy. What business are you really in? If you’re still selling products to the masses, you’re going to find it increasingly harder. If you’re still using the old sales model of one size-fits-all, its quite difficult to differentiate your companies products and services… Customers (if approached and asked), will tell you what they want!
Jeff in his book states; “make mistakes well – life is a beta- be honest & transparent, collaborate !” Being willing to be wrong is a key to innovation because correcting errors does not diminish credibility. Corrections enhance credibility and deepens trust. Standing up and admitting your errors makes you more believable; it gives your audience faith that you will right your future wrongs.
Many businesses have lost or are in the process of losing the next generation of customers. They’ve lost their destinies because they wanted to either save or resurrect their pasts…protection is not a strategy for the future!
My good friend Bill Smalley of Route Five International one of Canada’s leading sales consultants would ask, “where is your true value?” Is it what you know? Is it how you serve or how you can anticipate customer needs?
Cash flow can blind you to the strategic necessity of change, tough decisions and innovation.
Once again my thanks to Harvey Mackay, Jill Konrath, Jeff Jarvis, Neale Crombie and my good friend and mentor William (Bill) Smalley as it was their materials, insights/teachings that inspired this commentary. After all, the more I learn the less I know!