Here are 8 trends that will affect sales people and their sales managers in 2011, brought to you with my compliments and in time for you to be one step ahead of your peers. Do share them with colleagues.
Consultative selling – is it past its sell by date?
Consultative Selling has been used, abused and everyone’s doing it. So much that it’s lost its original meaning. Buyers in the B2B world will see through any attempt at consultative selling which comes across as a request to help you in your business.
They don’t have time any more for this; instead they want their problems recognised by salespeople, early and intuitively, and innovative solutions offered to solve them. Solutions that use the salespersons’ expertise and experience, solutions that are unique, value added and show how the problem will be solved.
Re-synchronise your selling cycle
Your selling cycle may need a re-boot and be re-synchronised.
Once in perfect synchronisation, so long as you marketed well, your customer came to you to check out your product offering, and if it satisfied their needs, they bought. Now, they don’t come to you unless they want to buy your offering, there’s a big gap now. Because they’ve already done their research, product comparisons and have brought the decision down to a few options. If you’re lucky, they might choose you.
What’s the answer? Simply move your cycle anti-clockwise so everything you do is just earlier, catch the customer whilst they’re researching their product choice, and be there when they’re looking online or asking a friend for a recommendation. Give huge after sales service to capture repeat business.
Re-incarnate your sales process, distinguish yourself even more, know the value you provide and the problems you solve for your customers, catch them younger, draw them to you earlier, give them swathes of timely and useful information and be there for them when they come searching. 2011 will see Content Marketing taking off in the UK.
Sales teams must collaborate more
More than any other time in the history of sales, we must learn to really collaborate as a team and achieve more. The web is making people collaborate ever more, just look at the success of Groupon and the price tag Google has placed on it. The tools are there to use to help you work together from camp-fire style chat rooms, cloud based computing, CRMs on Smartphones.
The Sales Manager’s new role is to help the team come together; many sales people are working from home even more than ever before to save costs, and are crying out for more collaboration. And remember Gen Ys have always worked together, love teams, pool resources with ease and won’t tolerate individualism and competiveness amongst teams. Close the silos.
It’s calculated that by 2013, more Smartphones will be sold than PCs and Laptops. That tells me that customers are going to be carrying around their web browsing capability. Are you ready? The immediate impact for 2011 is location based apps that tell people where they are, otherwise known as GPS Apps. Customers like to broadcast this to their friends and contacts.
Apps such as FourSquare let groups of people know when they’re all in the building. And there are apps that allow you to be there when your customer calls in the vicinity allowing you to offer a discount, a cup of coffee, a warm welcome.
Imagine your product offering popping up on the customer’s Smartphone when they get close to you, with a personal greeting and a discount with a promise of a warm cup of coffee and a welcome in your branch.
Do you really understand how a business ticks?
Can you read a Report and Accounts? Do you know the issues and concerns of a company by gazing over the numbers and metrics? The salesperson in the future must be able to understand accounts. Business acumen and advanced commercial awareness is going to become even more important than traditional sales skills.
The B2B customer now wants you to show the Return on Investment and assistance in selling this up the line to the other parts of the buying group. Your customer doesn’t want to calculate the ROI themselves; they want you to do it.
It calls for diagnostic selling which is going to replace consultative selling. This means being able to diagnose your customer problems and challenges, design an innovative solution, calculate the effect of he solution, then show the customer the ROI. Only then will you avoid price issues, which others will continue to have more and more and their service/product is commoditised.
Give Marketing Department a sales target
Marketing have always been involved in providing leads for the sales department, the time is ripe now for them to merge with sales even more, work alongside intimately.
Marketing departments need to be given sales targets and then to achieve them. Find the leads, yes of course, but now they need finding earlier than normal and then put into an incubator. Content marketing will become the buzzword within marketing.
It’s not about outsourcing anymore
It’s about automation. Outsourcing meant getting others to do your background work, others who were more efficient, cheaper and quicker. This will remain but the emphasis is now automation using tools. Software tools that do the job automatically, not people but code and hardware.
If it’s a real brain needed, we’ll be using VAs – Virtual Assistants. It’s a strategy at the moment, but then all plans and actions start with a strategy.
Sales Managers’ role continues to evolve
The role of the sales manager is in constant flux. Many of their traditional roles are being superseded. They are no longer needed to give information to their team, how many sales meetings have you attended where the whole meeting was about reading out emails and memos.
No, collaborative sales teams who are in constant communication via web 2.0 technologies with the rest of the company and more, don’t need a manager to do this. They’ll be receiving tweets from the people they need to follow.
Sales people of the future are not the Duracell powered, charismatic individuals from the last century, they are now self motivated, sole business people, seasoned business professionals, who understand their customers, can read a set of accounts and are all about designing innovative solutions to the problems they unravel.