What’s changed in 20 years of improving sales teams and operations?

What’s changed in 20 years of improving sales teams and operations?

January 9, 2015 marked 20 years in business for Barrett Consulting Group. Twenty years of helping company sales leaders and their salespeople improve their sales operations and their sales capabilities. Twenty years of helping salespeople and buyers have better, more mutually rewarding experiences, setting a fairer exchange of value.

As I moved toward this 20th anniversary, I started to muse upon what the sales world was like 20 years ago, compared to what it is like now. Here are just some of my initial musings and observations.

A lot has changed in the sales world over the last 20 years, some changes for the better and some perhaps not.

For one thing, selling used to be nothing more than product monologues – features and benefits dished up to a captive audience. Now product monologues are redundant. Organisations and sales teams have to do more than just ‘do a deal’. They have to engage with their increasingly informed clients, proactively identify opportunities and have a meaningful dialogue around service, relationships, solutions and results. The 21st century of selling is much more complex and much more about collaborative selling.

Gone is the idea that the ‘product’ is the centre of the sale. Now we need to talk about creating real value across the value chain.

Gone are the days when a box of client cards would be sitting on the passenger’s seat of the sales rep’s car. Now we are all aligned to CRM and trying to make the best use of these digital resources.

Gone is the simplicity of just picking up the phone and ‘cold’ calling a prospect to get an appointment and start the sales process. Yes we can still do that, but now we can integrate social media, social selling and content marketing to prime the prospect, establish our credentials and give to our community as part the sales process. We can make more targeted, personalised contact with our prospects, and our ability to do research is so much easier than the old Yellow Pages days. However, managing all that content does take time and effort.

Gone are the days of going directly to one decision-maker to get a deal across the line. Now it seems that several people need to be involved in the decision-making process, adding extra time and effort to win that same deal – it’s often buying by committee.

Going are the days of the annual 1-2 day sales training workshop where salespeople are herded into a room, told this is how to sell and sent back into the field with little support. Learning and development practices have come a long way and technology has assisted in creating a more effective way of teaching, coaching and continuously developing salespeople and sales teams. People are now thinking about blended learning approaches that combine classroom, field and online learning, and of course, coaching in the field by sales managers.

Gone are the days of blanket advertising and running broad sales territories. Instead companies are now practising micro market segmentation, creating specific value propositions, and developing clear messages of intent that distinguish one company and its points of difference from its competitors. We are now seeing highly targeted sales teams that are focused on selling into key markets.

Gone from most sales operations are the carbonated quotes, the paper proposal or posted tender. Now everything is pretty much digital. I can’t remember the last time I sent a proposal by post.

Gone are the days of the sales profession being treated as second class citizens with no formal qualifications to ratify their capabilities. Selling now has a university qualification in Australia when Barrett finally got Sales Essentials accredited as a Diploma of Business via Swinburne University. There are now over 100 salespeople in Australia with a Diploma of Business (Sales).

These are just some of the changes I have seen over the last 20 years and indeed there are many more, which I will write about from time to time as the year rolls on.

And finally, on a more personal level, Barrett would not be what it is today (a complete sales solution provider) without the input and hard work of the Barrett team over these last 20 years. Yes the configuration of the team has changed from time to time but everyone has contributed to our longevity and achievements. To all our clients, supporters and readers of this blog, thank you for your support and custom. Thank you to everyone who has made the last 20 years possible, especially to my lovely family. You are the reason I keep going.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is founder and CEO of www.barrett.com.au and www.salesessentials.com and has written 21 e-books and 500+ articles on the world of 21st century selling.


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