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“BUSINESS INSIGHTS”

 

An Occasional Newsletter

 to our Clients, Readers, and Friends

 

 Adjust or Perish: The Changing Role of Sales Professionals  

We have witnessed a technological revolution in the tools we use in selling and we are now seeing a revolution in the role of the sales representative. It is easier to replace a piece of equipment than to replace a sales or customer service representative.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over the next 10 years there will be a 15 percent decline in workers age 35 to 54 and a 9 percent decline in workers age 25 to 34, concurrent with a 25 percent increase in demand for workers in those age groups. Today I see companies having a hard time finding qualified young people to fill their sales and customer service positions, but that's nothing compared to the struggles they'll likely be facing in the next few years.  

So, what do we do with? 

  • The $500,000-a-year, long-time rep that doesn’t have the initiative to grow his/her territory?
  • The knowledgeable high-volume rep that is satisfied babysitting one or two major accounts?
  • The energetic, highly motivated rep that seems to do everything right but has little or no success?

Management often believes corrective action requires incentives. In truth, incentives do not create more knowledgeable, effective, productive salespeople. There is no quick fix or an all-purpose remedy for every member of a sales force. That's especially true in the case of less experienced reps that need the time, skills and information to develop new accounts.

Selling has changed fundamentally. The attributes, roles, objectives and activities of salespeople also must change. These days, it's not enough to be liked by a customer or prospect. It's necessary to be both liked and valued.

Like it or not, it's all about the customer. It's not about your company's products or services. It's about the ability to help a customer achieve their business objectives. Here are some of the most important and least appreciated qualities of today's successful sales representatives: 

    1. Understands business, not simply your products and services:

Today, it's necessary for a salesperson to understand the difference between profit and cash flow, the carrying and opportunity costs of excess inventory, and the ability to communicate effectively within the customer’s organization and within your company.  

    2. Makes sales calls worthy of a customer's time:

The sales representative should leave each sales call with more information than he or she had at the beginning of the call. It's equally important that at least one piece of helpful, relevant information be shared with the buyer on every sales call. This creates perceived value. 

    3. Has excellent written and verbal skills:

    As companies continue to reduce the number of qualified vendors, supplier selection decisions increasingly occur at higher levels within the company. A salesperson might never meet all the decision makers face-to-face.

    Think about your current customers. What would a salesperson have to do to sell each of them if they weren't already an account? Are they receiving that? Failure to adopt this mindset runs the risk of buyers feeling neglected and looking for a more suitable vendor.

    4. Always treats current accounts as though they are prospects:

Think about your current customers. What would a salesperson have to do to sell each of them if they weren't already an account? Are they receiving that? Failure to adopt this mindset runs the risk of buyers feeling neglected and looking for a more suitable vendor.

5. Understands that sales has a quality as well as quantity:

Not all business is profitable. The successful representative needs to know how to find qualified prospects, but he also needs to know whom not to call on.

As I look at newly hired sales and customer service representatives in many industries, I see a growing problem of incomplete education. The new generation is not as well equipped with effective communication skills, math skills, business skills, and knowledge of the sciences as previous generations entering the selling profession. Now more than ever, we need to educate and provide the support needed for them to succeed if we are to retain employees that will grow in their professions and grow our businesses.

There is a popular saying that states: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be what you’ve always been. Today's challenges can't be satisfied with yesterday's mindset.

About the Author:  Ken Wilson: Strategist, marketing guru, educator, facilitator, author, university lecturer and consultant, he can be reached at ken@wmg-mn.com or 763-476-2216

Copyright ©2015 by Ken Wilson    All rights reserved.

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