How to give your sales force a competitive advantage

How to give your sales force a competitive advantage

Which sales trends will most affect your business? How can you make the most of these changes? How can you steer your sales strategy to deliver sustainable results? How can you give your sales force a competitive advantage?

These questions were posed at the inaugural 12 Sales Trends Annual Business Breakfast hosted by Barrett. Focusing on what to do in light of the 12 Sales Trends for 2014 – The Thinking Sales Organisation, Peter Finkelstein, Barrett’s head of sales strategy, presented a very enlightening and informative speech on what we can do and how we can navigate our way using the 12 Sales Trends of 2014 as signposts to help us stay ahead of the game and turn thinking into action.

This is the second of two articles and summarises the speech that Peter presented to a full house of engaged and interested leaders. You will also find the link to the 34 minute video of Peter’s full presentation.

Sales strategy is easy to define; however, making wise choices about where and how to compete, where and how to sell, and what to offer to defined groups of buyers so that the company can counteract the forces that threat to erode sales performance is an increasing challenge in markets today.

We are convinced that too many companies are slow to react or are failing to allocate resources to support their strategic thinking. As a result, they slow themselves down, eventually succumbing to their own inertia.

Being a thinking sales organisation is going to be the only way to survive in 2014 and beyond

Sales managers who resist being strategic both as thinkers and interpreters are going to find themselves steadily falling behind their competitors, with increasing difficulty in being able to satisfy the demands of the markets.

Salespeople who don’t learn to think for themselves and who fail to be proactive are going to find their negotiating position being eroded.

And senior executives who fail to see sales as probably the single most important element of their value chain in 2014 are going to find the cost of survival becoming too expensive to maintain.

With these considerations in mind Peter shared some of his thoughts about the thinking sales organisations.

Sales Trend 1 – sales managers will be forced to drive costs out of sales

  • Find ways to enable their teams to sell in smaller geographic territories and reach more customers in an area, at lower cost, in the process reducing the cost of delivery, service and support.
  • Focus on new and more efficient ways to service low value customers.
  • Saturation selling is going to become the way to penetrate segments and the Internet will become more proactive as a store-front.

Sales Trend 2 – Telesales will have to make dramatic changes

  • A more strategic sales approach by tele-sales
  • Tele-sales operations has to be a part of an overall strategic initiative, in tandem with the Internet, social media and field sales operations as one integrated sales organisation.

Sales Trend 3 – Sales excellence management will find its correct place in the chain

  • Re-incorporate sales excellence into the sales manager’s activities with the responsibility for sales excellence and improving sales performance
  • Give sales managers the freedom to be leaders instead of super-salespeople

Sales Trend 4 – Sales training methodologies will change dramatically

  • Salespeople will need more, not less training  but they will also have less time to be trained
  • The most effective way to achieve ongoing training is through a blended learning approach using e-learning, classroom work and in-field coaching.

Sales Trend 5 – The move to ‘micro’ sales segmentation

  • Instead of relying on market segmentation, which is usually two dimensional, the three- dimensional sales segmentation is the better option – attractiveness of the segment, attraction of the company to buyers in the segment and competitiveness on a narrow front.
  • This three-dimensional approach is what fundamentally changes the game.

Sales Trend 6 – The low carbon economy creates sales opportunities

  • The shift in consumer sentiment — research reveals that upwards of 80% of consumers agree that companies should be responsible for fixing the environment — presents opportunities for sales leaders to develop strategies to capitalise on their organisation’s commitment to the environment.
  • Low/no carbon organisations can develop a competitive advantage that uniquely and meaningfully differentiates them from rivals.
  • Effective sales strategies are including low/no carbon companies as part of their segmentation criteria so that they can partner with like-minded buyers.

Sales Trend 7 – The normalising of social media in sales

  • According to Forbes Magazine salespeople who use social media to sustain contact with prospects have a 78.6% better performance level than those who don’t.
  • Businesses need to ramp up their use of social media as part of their sales strategy to create real-time content and contacts.
  • Social media is rapidly becoming the window for salespeople to learn to listen and look through and engage with their buyers.
  • Those organisations that have social media strategies where salespeople are trained to use the medium are winning.

Sales Trend 8 – A radical shift in sales mindset

  • The iInternet has enabled people to have human-to-human conversations.
  • Really effective sales leaders are implementing sales strategies that embrace this mindset and are pushing companies to move from competition to collaboration, from me to us; from talking at, to conversing with customers.
  • Encouraging everyone in the organisation to be meaningfully connected, in some way to the organisation’s customers.
  • Good selling is about helping people (customer, buyers, etc) be successful. Finding ways to collectively achieve goals.
  •  The old supremacy and dominance sales model, where customers treated suppliers as vendors or minions has died.

Sales Trend 9 – Procurement managers will become solutions salespeople too

  • Increased complexity and risk means that procurement has to assume responsibility for the creation and delivery of meaningful value.
  • Develop sales strategies that identify ways to help procurement deliver more internal value to their organisations
  • Get salespeople to change their mindset about procurement and look at developing the most reasonable partnership for these two.

Sales Trend 10 – Sales strategy will become a legitimate leadership function

  • Sales strategy is becoming a hot discipline for management.
  • Along with business and marketing strategies, sales strategy is now playing a leading role at C-level decision-making.
  • Management will look for more effective ways to prepare their sales teams for customer interactions and develop saturation strategies for covering every opportunity in a segment.

Sales Trend 11 – Selling in the Asian Century

  • A China strategy is needed for Australian business. Companies recognise the need to develop deeper engagement with their Chinese counterparts.
  • Australian salespeople will therefore need to study China, travel, live, work and speak Chinese.
  •  While our cultural links with Europe remain and our alliance with the US endures, our economic links have switched to Asia. With China going to be the world’s largest economy the strategic challenge for Australia is quite unique – we either agree to ride the tiger or get eaten by it.

Sales Trend 12 – The Age of the Enlightened Salesperson has arrived

  • Companies need to make hard decisions about how they want their buyers to see them – as vendors or partners; as mere suppliers or sustainable sources of value.
  • They need to translate these considerations into strategy that provides direction and a clear mission for the sales force.
  • Enlightened salespeople recognise that they need to invest in themselves and market themselves.
  • Salespeople need to step up to the plate, take some initiative and invest in themselves.

 To watch Peter’s presentation, follow this link.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert  sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Her business Barrett P/L partners with its clients to improve their sales operations. Visit


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