Over the last 10+ years the role of the sales person has changed. 10 years ago, salespeople were often the first step in the purchase process and could significantly influence customer decision-making by controlling information about pricing, availability, competitive advantage, etc.
My how times have changed! Today with nearly ubiquitous information, customers engage with salespeople after they have already researched their prospective purchase. Digital commerce and disintermediation have caused a number of customers to questions the importance of having a sales relationship at all. More importantly, successful sales teams are learning that long-term sales success isn’t indicated by the number or size of deals closed – it’s measured by getting and keeping the right customers.
Here are a few observations to ensure that the role of sales is valuable, sustainable and integral:
Selling inside is just as important as selling to your customers. Great sales people provide value to their organizations through their market insights and direct communication with the marketplace. Accordingly, they can help their respective companies shape product development, marketing strategy and customer service by acting as the voice of the customer.
Cultivating emotional connections. Think about it, think about the marketing and positioning you see today. Are you being sold products or services or are you being sold satisfaction? Great sales people don’t try to sell things. Instead, they appeal and connect with their customers through emotion and thought leadership. By doing so, the focus is not on price and features but on appealing to what customers truly value and the goals and objectives they are trying to achieve.
Great sales people don’t imitate, they innovate. Great salespeople don’t follow what everyone else is doing. They offer their customers unique perspectives and look to push the envelope. The sales experience is differentiated by challenging the status quo and introducing new and valuable concepts.
Great salespeople attract the best customers for their company. They don’t chase any and every customer. They are selective when engaging prospects. They understand, and this is important, they their products/services/technologies may not be for everyone and work to attract loyal and profitable customers through shared values. Having been very fortunate to have been part of sales teams who have broken into new markets with strong incumbents, selecting the right customers makes a huge difference as the markets mature. Relationships are stronger and you have a more intimate understanding of the respective market thereby offering great sales people to add unique value. Top sales people build deeper relationships with fewer customers rather than a broad, wide and shallow approach. These relationships become profitable and sustainable if the account focus represents a good fit for the company, instead of closing as many deals as possible.
Sweat the small stuff. Great salespeople create extraordinary experiences and understand the strong differentiation this represents. All the touch points between the customer and sales company are examined in order to identify unique opportunities where the sales company’s key values can be shared. Great salespeople don’t engage with a customer simply to make a sale – they look for ways to make their customers more successful. Anyone can and should focus on the customer’s pain points, but great salespeople stand out because, they know there is value in identifying successes waiting to be exploited. This may not always involve a sale, but the long-term value is priceless.
Great sales people are committed and stay committed. Many sales people feel the pressure to win that new account or retain current customers at any cost, but the great ones do not give price concessions just to win the deal. They are deeply committed to the value their company offers and they skillfully help their customers understand this value as well. They make that very important connection between what their customers value and craft their offer in a way that uniquely resonates with them.
All of these principles are used by great salespeople in such a way that they become the effective tip of the spear for their respective companies. Great salespeople continually look for more. They look to cultivate a deep connection between their company and their customer’s business. Done right, great salespeople build up support within a market for their company’s products/services so that it becomes the brand leader in it’s category. This approach isn’t just about making the sale, it’s about engaging customers in a way that produces stronger and more valuable companies and sustains long-term success for both their respective companies and their clients.
This is what great salespeople do.