Changing sales perceptions

Stop for a minute and reflect: What is your view of selling? Has your perception of sales changed over the years? Stop for a minute and reflect: What is your view of selling? Has your perception of sales changed over the years?

Your answer is most likely ‘yes’ if you are a customer or salesperson in business to business (B2B) sales. But not if you are a customer of retail. More about that another time.

Today’s changing B2B and high-end B2C sale practice styles are an adaptation to the environmental forces. The change towards people-centricity is evident in a number of organisational functions, in particular the sales function where there has been a significant shift from product-focused selling to relationship selling.

To serve their customers better, in ever more competitive marketplaces, companies feel compelled to reorganise their sales force around markets rather than products.

Findings from the Sell Like a Woman research project found that companies realise they cannot satisfy every customer and instead focus more on serving well those whose needs and expectations they can meet, in return having kept an ongoing customer and built up a good reputation.

After all, most businesses these days acknowledge that keeping an existing client is easier than acquiring a new one, especially with decreasingly less product differentiation, brand loyalty and information exclusiveness.

The perception of sales is improving within companies because the very nature of sales is transforming; only part of sales is about making a sale.

The position titles serve as good indication. “Sales representative” has changed and diversified into more co-operative titles such as Account Manager, Relationship Manager and Business Development Manager. All sales, but with more of a partnership focus to build their customers’ business.

One of the survey participants, Debra Templar, the director of Australian Retail Services, who has almost two decades of management experience, really hit the note, which resonates acutely with many other successful saleswomen, when she gave her impression of what is it her clients value the most about working with her:

“They trust me,” she said. “(They receive) value for money. They value expertise. They know I can sift through issues and flag situations they perhaps haven’t seen. I keep confidences. And I get results for them. I make them appear heroes to their people.”

This new strategic, multi-tasking approach to sales (of being a mini CEO) is a complex process of being an attuned listener and communicator and a creative problem solver on the customer level, and understanding or inferring customers’ broader business objectives, while having a sound knowledge of one’s own internal resources and abilities more generally. Those are some of the qualities that distinguish the most highly successful salespeople of the 21st century from the average.

Seeing the bigger picture or “playing god” isn’t easy, especially when no one expects that from a salesperson in the first place. Sales managers more often than not discourage any activities not directly related to selling a product right here, right now, to as many people as possible.

However, as Rosenbaum (1999) found, successful salespeople often disregard manager’s directives and achieve results in ways other than following these primitive and, at a first glance, intuitive rules alone.

Sue Barrett is Founder & Managing Director of BARRETT Pty Ltd, an Australian based Sales Fitness Firm that helps businesses Build High Performing Sales Teams and is Author of soon to be released book ‘Sell Like a Woman’.

For more Sell Like a Woman blogs, click here.


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