2015 sales trends: How to sell better in a complex world

2015 sales trends: How to sell better in a complex world

Last week, we hosted our 2015 Barrett 12 Sales Trends Annual Business Breakfast, where many senior business and sales leaders came to hear about and discuss the theme for the event this year, ‘Transparency and the middle path – How to sell better in a complex world’. It was great to see the room filled to capacity again as it was for the inaugural event last year.

It also gave us the opportunity to formally celebrate our 20th year in business and thank the Barrett team and our clients and supporters, many of whom were there on the day, for their loyalty and dedication on our shared journey in helping our people and businesses sell better.

The event featured four notable speakers whose role it was to help us understand the new transparency and the middle path and how we can navigate our way forward to the future. We focused on the desperate need for strong leadership and a clear vision in changing times, and better ways of doing business that are sustainable and beneficial to businesses, customers and communities i.e. creating a fair exchange of value.

Our first speaker, James Thomson, companies and markets editor of The Australian Financial Review, helped set the scene about the current condition of the nation especially when it came to sharing insights about the state of our markets and business in general. 

Catherine Thompson, former CPO of ANZ Bank and procurement specialist, presented on the buying and selling challenges facing businesses today and how salespeople and businesses can address some of the major fads in procurement which are leading to sub optimal business outcomes.

Jens Hartmann, Barrett’s head of learning & development, talked about the importance of helping salespeople be ‘match fit’ in a rapidly changing marketplace and what we can do to create cost-effective, perpetual learning environments of sales excellence.

And finally Robert Johanson, chairman of Bendigo & Adelaide Bank, emphasised the importance of creating a compelling vision for the future where businesses can be a force for good beyond pure bottom line results.

In the coming weeks we will feature the details of each presentation with an accompanying video, so watch this space.

Our conclusions from the morning

We all agreed that businesses and sales teams need to know how to sell better in a complex world. Especially given these uncertain times, with so many things changing and once tried and true strategies now being tossed around on the turbulent seas of business like flotsam and jetsam. Now, if you are wondering why I used these nautical terms, I had my reasons. If we look at their meanings we can see their relevance to how many businesses have been struggling to adapt to these changing times.

Take flotsam for instance. It refers to the floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo. Just think of those businesses large and small, like Kodak, that didn’t adapt and are now flotsam. Or jetsam, which is part of a ship, its equipment, or its cargo that is purposely cast overboard or jettisoned to lighten the load in times of distress and is washed ashore. Think of the all too frequent cost-cutting rounds since the GFC.

Ring any bells? I hope not personally for all our sakes but we all agreed that we’ve seen our fair share of this kind of wreckage in our respective markets. And that we need to ensure that our ships, our fleet, have the right crew, the right ballast, the right cargo, the right structure, the right strategy to take us to our destination and deliver the results we want.

We also agreed that we cannot stand still waiting for someone else to make decisions on our behalf if we want to stay in business and have viable and healthy client relationships, communities and economies.

Instead, we need to learn how to live and work with complexity by moving beyond linear constructs, point solutions and perfectionism to accepting approximation and moderation as a way of life.

That is why this year’s sales trends business breakfast theme stemmed from the idea of everything in moderation and a new openness whether by choice or not.

Over the years, salespeople and organisations have often focused solely on a single idea, shifting from one to the other as strategies proved ineffective. More recently, there has been a realisation that a more balanced approach (where a number of different aspects are given equal weighting) is potentially more appropriate and more effective for our businesses, especially in a complex world. This makes sense; however, it isn’t always easy to grasp and communicate in a considered and practical manner.

Equally, in today’s digital climate where information of all kinds is disseminated so easily and readily, people are expecting (and in some cases demanding) greater transparency from organisations in a variety of arenas—think pricing, supply chain sourcing, how things are made and grown, social conscious, higher purpose and so on. Today’s CEOs and sales leaders need to be more aware of not only how they are doing business, but also how they are communicating this information and the impact their openness or lack thereof is having on the hearts and minds of their customers, stakeholders and the broader community.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is the founder and CEO of the innovative sales advisory and education firm Barrett and the online sales education and resource platform www.salesessentials.com.


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