I am a salesman. Although my LinkedIn profile says Manager of Customer Solutions, Account Manager, Director of Business Development, etc., I am a salesman. Regardless of title, my career has been to introduce the products and services of my company to those we feel would benefit from our expertise. Sales is a vital role in any organization and one that has become a revolving door. Why? Many companies have not modernized their sales strategy to create new opportunities. They continue to sell the same way as they have done in the past. It’s a numbers game, right? Make more calls!
For years, sales reps carried the water for the entire process. From prospecting potential customers to closing the deal, they are chief cook and bottle washer. Even now it is common to see a job description adding more responsibilities upon their shoulders. These range from managing accounts, lead generation, maintaining CRM, reporting, etc., many of which have nothing to do with actual selling.
What has driven companies to react this way? First, the pressure to sell and sell more is greater than ever. Innovations in every industry have flooded the market with choice and choice has increased competition making it harder to acquire customers. Second, most companies struggle with making the evolutionary changes required to stay competitive, especially when there is uncertainty a change will have the desired outcome. History is often the guide that companies use when trying to solve a problem. History has a record of successful solutions and previous pitfalls to avoid. This is why many companies avoid changing their sales approach and continue to spend large amounts of time and money on the revolving door of sales reps being hired and fired.
The problem with this thinking is that history is not the most successful guide in today’s new digitally connected world. While certain aspects of previous accomplishments can guide some areas of business, others have to be re-imagined and approached. Today’s customer, how they assess their needs, acquire insight and make choices has evolved faster than most companies’ approach to engage and acquire them as customers.
Today’s buyer has access to volumes of information that lead many to believe that 80% of the buying process is done before a sales rep is engaged. In Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human, Mr. Pink states the main difference – and it is a big one – between today’s sales environment and that of the past is information symmetry. Information symmetry is the condition in which all parties involved know all relevant information. Therefore, if the customer has nearly all of the information on the products and services of a company, there is no reason to engage a sales rep until much later in the buying process. Whether you know it or not, your company is being vetted and the customer’s decision to engage has been made long before your company is contacted.
Sales is no longer needed to open the door. Sales function is to focus their efforts on the final 20% where the client and rep are face-to-face and the rep is needed close the deal.
If you are spending time, effort and money on the revolving sales door by constantly rotating reps and expecting them to open doors, build relationships and nurture prospects, your approach is becoming extinct and eventually fruitless. Further, you are doing your company a disservice if you want to compete in today’s evolving world.
Where do you need to invest your sales dollars? In strategies that create the engagement before the rep is needed. It is more than just marketing. It is more than the buzzword “content” permeating from every digital provider trying to sell you the next advertising idea. It is about relevancy. Everything you do must be relevant to your customer, including making sure you are targeting the right customer. Marketing and social media are critical as this is today’s medium in place of television, radio, newspaper, etc. Content is the invitation to get to know your company, but more important than any tactic is to know your customer so well you can see their needs before they do. This is the evolution your company must make. For doing this and changing your infrastructure with right resources and expertise to fulfill this can shape that buying process in your favor. This is the 80% your prospect is experiencing before they speak to a sales rep. These efforts will make your marketing more effective, your social media will show an R.O.I and your content will have a true purpose.
Accepting this change in your sales process is necessary. If you do not your company will have to contend with another door, the one you are trying to open which will remain locked…and your reps won’t have a purpose because they won’t able to get inside to do what their is suppose to do…turn the prospect into your customer.