Sales work is changing, are your keeping up with the change?19.02.2016
I recently read a US based business publication where they predicted, that by 2020 85% of business interactions between businesses will be executed without human intervention. Article also stated that it is very likely that of the total estimated 18 million salespeople in the United States, there will be only about 4 million left by the end of 2020. According to the recent survey conducted by Mercuri International in 16 countries, across 5 different industries and through 1,559 phone interviews, the way businesses manage their procurement processes is changing across industries. The study shows, that 88% of the B2B decision makers start their purchasing process by using internet. The study also concludes that 70% of the whole procurement process is conducted without any influence of a sales person. In other words, it seems evident that the sales work and sales landscape is changing. The question is, how is it changing, and more so, what are the impacts of this change on sales professionals and the growth of our businesses?
This change is already true in the consumer driven industries, where most of the so called transactional sales work has been transformed by the e-sales or e-customer care models. Product comparison regarding the price, quality and product features has been made incredibly easy by internet, and the customer often knows more about the product features and benefits than the sales person. Traditional transactional sales, is now all about delivery, payment terms and logistics. It seems that the sales person has been replaced by efficient customer care and transaction systems, or net based sales systems. People are no longer needed in sales, or are they?
However, looking into any industry or business sector, where business is driven by larger investments, it is still people that are making the most important decisions. These critical business decisions are based on a set of carefully calculated and analyzed facts, needs, wants, aspirations and previous experiences. This personal decision making process is the same weather it is in a B2B or B2C environment. It seems though that also this business landscape has become challenging. One phenomenon, is the fight for face to face time. According to Mercuri’s study (and also from my personal experience), it has become more difficult to reach the right decision makers and to secure a face to face meeting. Also once been successful in securing the meeting, the time available for negotiations, is far less than before. It seems that one underlying factor behind this change is that the decision making process is also pushed higher in the organization, making the C-level crucial in reaching positive decisions. C-level contacts are tough to reach and even more tough to please, as anyone doing business in this segment can confirm. The time is not the only challenge when talking to C-level, they also expect a lot more value and insight from the seller. It is not enough to know your solutions, services or products and be able to present or demonstrate them. The buyer excepts the sales person to understand their business, and to bring some value from their business point of view.
What does this then mean from the perspective of the sales person? In order to be successful in sales in this tough terrain, the sales person needs to be more active and skillful than before. Activity on its own is not enough either, one needs to be smart about on how to be active and how to handle the demanding customer situations. This means a whole new set of tools and methods to reach the right decision makers at a right time. Internet based selling tools and professional networks become more and more valuable. Also due to the limited facetime and expected show of value, there is ever increasing demand for special negotiation and influencing skills, and business capabilities of the person conducting the F2F business process. The salesperson of tomorrow needs to be a thought leader or expert with insight, and to have an ability to conduct his or hers’ profession with precision and in a goal oriented way. In other words, true professionals can identify the different client situations and have the ability to adopt their sales skills and approach to the given situation. A true professional is ready to adapt and is willing to learn new ways to work and conduct sales. As people in competitive sports well know, new skills and precision execution only comes through vigorous training. It also takes a lot of failures and a few losses, in order to grow to be a winner. Luckily there are several ways to fail safely and learn new skills, without scarifying or damaging your business. One way is by selecting a trusted development partner who has an ability to facilitate this type of learning process and who masters the tools to learn these new skills.
written by Saku Koskinen