A slow burn, we acknowledge, but with consumers in such a powerful position, product no longer the centre piece of the sale, and value being more important than price, the time has come for sales teams and everyone in their businesses to work with customers, helping them achieve their goals and, in doing so, sales teams will achieve theirs.
Smart companies are moving from competition to collaboration, from ‘me’ to ‘we’. They are involving everyone across their business to be meaningfully connected in some way to the customers.
Take CSR, a major manufacturer of a range of innovative building products in Australia; its CSR Way program, which stems across all their businesses, is yielding incredible results.
Simon Bell, professor of marketing and the director of the Executive Education Department of Management and Marketing at the University of Melbourne, said he thought CSR was probably the most advanced of all the manufacturing companies he has seen in Australia in getting customer focus, presence, contact and involvement directly to the shop floor. In the case of one CSR business, it was stated “our customers ‘love us’ so much they call production leaders directly for technical advice. One calls us ‘his own factory’.”
What smart companies and leaders know is that today selling is everybody’s business. They know that they need to give people a real reason to connect to the whole business, seeing their part in it and being part of the stories, the relationships, the successes and challenges that come out of working with customers, suppliers and everyone in between. Communicating the impact that their collective efforts have on a customer’s business means something to people; it’s real, it’s tangible, and these leaders and their teams know it.
Good selling is about helping people be successful; finding ways to collectively achieve our goals. This is the radical mind shift that is happening in business – mutual respect, interdependence, both parties working towards achieving a win-win outcome. The old supremacy and dominance over the other – treating suppliers as vendors, minions – is dying out. Those companies who still apply these medieval practices won’t have anyone to do business with in the end.
This sales trend is seeing companies involving their customers and suppliers in decision-making across the value chain. Smart companies will hold regular reviews with customers and suppliers to understand their business goals and then look at levels of collaboration, innovation, and co-creation across businesses and disciplines.
What does this mean for sales teams? To be and remain in sales you’ll need to like helping people achieve things that are important to them.
Smart business leaders will encourage everyone in their businesses to see what is possible and create a common ‘plumb line’ of purpose to which everyone can connect with and remain true. Everyone will be able to see how they can help generate new business – it will be a bringing together of minds around a common purpose which will allow for innovation, ideas, new ways to address old problems, collaboration, and so on.
Selling will be on the agenda of every business unit, with tangible connections to cause and effect throughout the organisation. People will want to know what happens, the part they play in the success of their customers, and where appropriate, their customers’ customers.
As businesses become more complex and value is more than just a product and price, smart leaders see the value of involving people across their whole value chain in working with customers and suppliers, and creating viable solutions, ongoing partnerships and real dollar and brand value.
Products, whilst still relevant, are now one aspect, a means to an end rather than the end itself. Selling is about the creation of opportunity around a common purpose that is relevant and meaningful to everyone.
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.