This series of ‘Survival of the Adaptive’ articles will look at the key things we need to do as sales teams to contend with the many changes afoot in our 21st century world and market place.
Part 2 is all about developing a well-informed sales force
A decade ago, when traditional product-pushing sales were all that mattered, most sales leaders employed and trained well-motivated salespeople – usually with what they referred to as “industry experience”. Today that is hardly enough!
Many of these sales leaders now confess to being less certain that industry experience or having articulate salespeople is the right formula. This is a big change.
For decades sales management has been perfecting the product-knowledge playbook. Whilst some new sales techniques have from time to time been introduced (e.g. consultative selling, relationship-based selling and networking) in the main, salespeople have been (and are still) doing the same things in the same markets for decades, but with evidently diminishing returns.
So, what is the solution?
Sales managers should recognise that simply employing salespeople with industry experience and product knowledge isn’t enough; that providing product training alone simply perpetuates old habits; that salespeople with the “gift of the gab” just won’t cut it in a sophisticated market. What you will be left with is the same old people recycling within your industry dishing up the sales old ideas and with less results.
What sales leaders should be exploring is holistic development of their sales force that is driven by an effective, clear and well-articulated sales strategy.
To keep our sales teams fit for purpose we need to make sure sales development embraces four-dimensional knowledge:
- Business acumen and commercial awareness – this is more critical than ever before as the complexity of businesses, markets and societies grows.
- Knowledge of customer and prospects – knowing your customer segments and what they really value is critical to developing the right sales messaging and delivering real value.
- Knowledge of the market, competitors and the industry – keeping track of how markets shift and adapt to new technologies, ideas and issues that face us every day. Looking at disruptive technologies that can change the face of how we do business, live and survive are critical as event the most well-known businesses can disappear if they can’t adapt quickly enough.
- Knowledge of the products, services and their application – our offerings are now only a part of the sale; knowing how our products and services fit into a complex ecosystem is critical to our survival.
These are the foundations for strategic success. When the sales force has all of these dimensions and is using the knowledge to support customers, sales will improve.
In addition, industries would do well to refresh their sales gene pool regularly by bringing in better sales talent from outside their industry to help keep new ideas, innovations and opportunities circulating within the business.