Death of a Salesman?
If our market changes then we need to look at our approach. Are we providing what our customer needs and wants? Are we anticipating what they will want in 1, 3, and 5 years? Are we helping them to meet and exceed their customers’ expectations?
How do we differentiate ourselves against our competition? The relationship is still important as people do business with people they like, but it's not enough on its own. We need to be providing the basics: price, on-time delivery, information but now the added value services: market insight, knowledge about the customer’s customer and so on.
Is this the death of the Salesperson? For years millions of people have crossed the country, and the world, selling all manner of goods and services. With incredible drive they build relationships and espouse features and benefits, calling in favors to hit the month, quarter and year end so they can achieve bonus. Creative in their sales stories, entrepreneurial in their innovative new ways to sell and the life and soul of company parties they see themselves as the most important people without whom the organization would fail tomorrow. And woe betide the aspiring salesperson who doesn’t golf!
In many industries our traditional view of salespeople is changed, or is changing. Buyers in all industries have become more and more sophisticated. The level of information available is mind boggling, and you can get dashboards of every commodity and product updated instantaneously right on your desktop. Price has become king.
Markets are consolidating. Where a deal could once be done as a favor to a friend, now the scale has multiplied and so the impact of paying more is great and more visible. With the slow recovery of the market M&A funds are once more rising so expect even more concentration.
So as B2B businesses concentrate the stakes are raised. Those who manage these customers now have to be so much more than salespeople. They must now be business managers, comfortable with managing the P&L (not just sales at any cost), able to lead and inspire their teams; strategy builders who look at how their customer relationship feeds the long term organizational goals while delivering the quarter, comfortable with aligning their activities with the marketing department’s campaigns across all media.
There are two ways to achieve this:
1. Revolution: fire and hire. Many organizations believe that the old team are not capable of changing and replace them. Often many years of knowledge are thrown out, replaced by raw young things who can be shaped in mindset, culture and results.
2. Evolution: training, engagement, even co-development of the future. Taking the more long term challenge of harnessing the existing knowledge and skills of the team to a new approach.
Neither approach is better, it depends on the situation you find yourself in and how long you can negotiate to deliver the change. In making the choice it is imperative to understand what your goal is, are the current team capable of the change, what type of culture do you want to foster and how will a new vs old team fit with and embrace this, what support will either group require?
Ultimately you will choose one or the other approach, or perhaps a hybrid of the two. Once you have done this you will be implementing many changes over a period of time and will need to work on and monitor the culture, mindsets, skillsets and of course performance of individuals and the group. Both ways will require support for the team and like a new product launch a ‘launch and leave’ approach is ill advised. Yes, initial training and perhaps a change management plan are often valuable, however, to achieve their and your aspirations many will require closer support.
Training can open eyes to new skills and approaches, but how will you follow up? A new leader can learn a strategy development methodology but its different leading it – and then implementing to successful delivery. Who will coach them through the use of these tools in real life situations? Do you have the experience in the group to short cut each person learning everything through their own experiences? Who in the organization can help and when does external expertise and experience provide value? Senior leaders may have development coaches – would they benefit from a commercial coach who can effectively bolt on their experience of similar situations?
This change is coming, or may even have arrived, and it will continue apace. The wise few are on their way with plans and experienced support.