Attendees to the 2nd Information Industry Network ‘Sales Leaders’ Forum’ debated this question….
The key takeaways below.
Sales has changed
There was strong agreement that changes in media, changes in technology and changes among buyers has impacted on how sales needs to be conducted. The nature of sales is more complex, more challenging and clients are much smarter, so the top performing sales people a) have different characteristics, b) exert different behaviours, and c) approach sales differently than the typical sales person of 5-10 years ago.
What doesn’t work?
Sales people who believe they can sell ice to Eskimo’s or who rely on a round of golf to win their business, are going to struggle in the new age. Bluffing is no longer possible and cosy relationships don’t enable clients to prove ROI to the growing number of internal people they need to convince.
Characteristics of the top performing sales people
As clients get smarter, sales people need to be more intelligent. They need to be professional, adaptable and quick to react to changing circumstances. They need to act more like a consultant, someone who can connect the dots between challenges and solutions, and someone who can think on their feet in a logical manner.
Clients want to work with sales people who are authentic, honest and knowledgeable, but they also want a connection with the person they choose to work with. The top performing sales people can connect and build trust with a client as well as get to grips with the business challenges that they can help them solve.
Approaches of the top performing sales people
Top performing sales people don’t just have different characteristics, they approach sales differently. Top sales people have interesting things to say, including new things that their clients may not be aware of. They make it their place to deeply understand their audience and share insight with their clients. They also sell on two levels, considering how they can help their contact in their role as well as help achieve the client’s business objectives.
With decisions taking longer, the top performing sales people enable the client to ‘own’ solutions so they can sell it on internally. This means closer collaboration, a stronger understanding of who else will be involved in the decision and what could block it internally. This enables them to come to an agreement with the client about how to overcome these barriers in advance.
Tools of the trade
Good sales people are utilising social media well. They understand their clients and audiences, seek out their clients and join similar groups and discussions. Clients are not always ready to buy, but they shouldn’t be ignored. The top performing sales people are thinking about how they position themselves as the go-to person when clients are ready.
There was a lot of discussion on this topic, but one of the core themes was that an open, more creative environment is ideal, one where sales people can learn and share with colleagues. As technology and market changes are ever-present in the modern world, an environment that allows creativity, innovation and collaboration internally is vital, both among sales teams, but also between sales, marketing, content and digital teams.
The future of sales
All of the above is a very positive shift for sales as a career. Being a sales person today requires a different approach and different view of the world. It is a profession that is no longer one-dimensional, there is scope to improve and grow as an individual – to strive to become part of the top 5%.