Can CEOs really future proof sales to deliver results in competitive markets?
CEOs of companies that did not achieve sales goals are working out quickly that old practices and old sales thinking just doesn’t work now. It’s not just a case of work harder or having a better product; it’s about aligning with how buyers now purchase, which can mean some sellers are redundant. The bottom line is, the buyer is far more accomplished at buying than sales are selling.
To future proof sales, CEOs need to ensure the right changes are made now and they are keeping their companies relevant, effective, and with a low cost of sales. To achieve this, the changes can go to the core of the company’s sales and marketing operations impacting staffing levels, job functions, and go-to-market strategies. As buyers change their behaviour, and they have been for some time, many sales roles are becoming redundant, and this will only increase in the next five to ten years.
The companies that will be winning in the future are those that are making it a priority to future-proof their sales organisations now by embarking on strategies and improvements that are well ahead of their competitors. They will be looking for different ways to be in the market, hiring different skill sets and be well down the path to be a market leader, while their competitors struggle with old models and thinking. The required changes being harder each year the company remains left behind.
The challenge for companies is, the era of the salesperson being the product informer and educator of buyers has shifted. Customers are finding those answers and being educated on the internet; they are satisfied they have sufficient information to make decisions. They see no value being added by salespeople and avoid interacting with them.
Sellers today, need to have more knowledge and expertise than what the internet has to offer to be relevant to buyers. The sellers must demonstrate how a product adds value to the customer’s business or how it improves their situation. They need to apply business thinking around the products in many industries now.
To be reliant on old models of salespeople reaching out to customers and servicing through regular visits has become a barrier to sales growth in many industries as buyers do not have time for what can be quickly learned on the internet. The decision-makers are pushing the regular visitor salesperson further down the chain of command to avoid wasting time but not wishing to offend a supplier. Those calls becoming a social event at best.
Sellers who have invested years in developing relationships are now finding that the buyer’s priorities have been overridden by the need for business value over the product offering. Those relationships often no longer open doors within companies as the gap between senior decision-makers and roles such as procurement and line management has widened putting immediate barriers to new business generation.
Worst of all, in many cases, sellers are unaware the buyer is even in a buying process, mainly where marketing and sales are not perfectly aligned. The marketing department is also undergoing significant change and demands on their performance. They are no longer about public relations and print work; they must be capable of lead generation no matter what industry you are in. Marketing needs to capture those buyers in the market in a subtle way that has them engage with the business.
Now is the Time to Future-Proof Sales
There are four seller profiles: order takers, interpreters, navigators, and advisors. For many years’ companies survived on order takers and interpreters, but in the future, only the sales advisor is poised for future growth. The others will contract by 35% or more, while advisors, on the other hand, will see a substantial increase in demand.
The reason behind this growth is that advisors operate with higher-level decision-makers and far more strategically than the other profiles. They are astute at pinpointing buyer problems from a business perspective- often before the buyers can do themselves – and are considered valuable participants in the sales process. They add value to the process and can provide information that buyers are unable to source on their own.
For companies to cultivate growth in advisor sellers, they need to adjust their companies and become future proof. The following are four critical characteristics of future proof sales teams.
The sales leader of the future will need to shift from being a coach and networker to a businessperson. The demand for considerably higher business acumen increases with the emphasis placed on their ability to not only deliver sales revenue through a team, but the right mix of customers, efficiently, with higher profitability, and improved performance processes that set the company apart from their competitors.
The marketing leader must be a person with a deep understanding of sales and comfortable working with analytics as a key decision-making tool providing robust information to sales. Their priority is a lead generation and connecting with the right customers while minimising costs.
- Expediting Marketing and Sales Efficiencies
At the core of a future-proof sales team is increased efficiency at the ground level of individual salespeople. Salespeople need strategic and operational tools, and lean processes in place that allow them to expedite efficiencies and boost conversion rates across all stages of the revenue funnel or pipeline. In other words, sales activities must be streamlined from prospecting to closing.
Top performing sales organisations are not adding more sales personnel to do this. They are pushing hard on marketing to do the heavy lifting in the early parts of the sales process and using technology to automate processes so that salespeople are more efficient and can spend more time focused on actual consultative selling.
- Buyer Understanding and Engagement
Buyers are seeking salespeople that are advisors and capable of adding value by providing the information they cannot readily source themselves. Over the past decade instances of this have been seen with an opt-in/opt-out approach by sellers. To future proof your sales organisation, all sellers must opt-in to advisory selling and have knowledge and know-how that is deemed of value by customers.
Marketing departments are using automation combined with engagement analytics to increase buyer understanding. Companies using these combined technologies to understand better which messaging is most likely to be effective with individual customers and prospects. They are assisting the sales organisations by delivering the right profile of customers with the right messaging to increase engagement and sales success.
Marketing must use these analytics to identify a prospect’s interactions with content early on in the sales process. As the individual buyer profile is building, salespeople gain an understanding of what interests the buyer the most allowing them to tailor the approach. The implementation of buyer-side engagement analytics is invaluable to sales organisations as it provides them with the tools to shift to an advisor.
A further value from buyer side analytics is that it builds profiles to improve prospecting, engaging with the right opportunities, streamlining qualification, and the sales stages to closing. This is vital as all this time, buyers are decreasing their interaction with sales, and without the tools, sales are left in the dark to prospect and build new business.
- Effective Marketing and Sales Processes
To build a future-proof sales organisation, you need a repeatable and scalable sales process that is effective for your team. The days of ‘go your way and networks’ are rapidly fading. To build a sales process, it requires an understanding of what it takes to move prospects through pipeline stages of the purchasing process – specific to your organisation and buyer processes. The simplicity of the meet, greet, present, and close made void by the changed buyer behaviour.
Once again, analytics are starting to play a significant role in developing more effective sales processes by shining a light on what’s works and what’s not working. Capturing key buyer data, and developing trend analytics begin to form a picture of the activities that deliver the best results.
Analytics is the most valuable tool for marketing and sales when future-proofing sales and marketing organisations. Analytics is used for the basis of decision-making to show what messaging works best with A/B testing of subject lines. How many emails you send and how many calls you need to make to increase conversion. This can directly contribute to lower costs in your marketing and sales operation.
- Repeatable Processes: Lean Thinking
For many years I have written about repeatable and scalable processes based on lean principles. When applied, it has a positive and lasting effect on business. It is a pillar of future-proofing sales teams. The processes are documented and implemented into the CRM so that anyone – even new hires – can reference it whenever needed. The repeatable process removes the slow learning curve of new hires and salespeople going down paths that will not bear fruit. They learn to target personas, use qualification questions timely, and to understand buyer concerns to shift to being an advisor.
The repeatable process removes costly errors similar to how it is excluded in manufacturing and other lean environments. It builds the brand to a stronger representation in the market and a seller that buyers see value in using.
To future proof sales and marketing organisations, mean changing how your organisation operates and the tools that you use. Reliance on individual representations of performance is replaced with analytics proving buyer behaviour and shifting from product informers to product advisors. Reducing the number of sellers in the team and potentially increasing the marketing team to take on the heavy lifting and producing a higher level of buyer engagement.
Most of all, to future proof sales and marketing, is about positioning your company ahead of competitors in a sustainable manner.
Now is the time to commence future-proofing and achieving sales goals. Purposefully designed, the Sales Improvement Programme will provide your company with the disciplines and processes to take your marketing and sales organisation into the future and achieve sales goals.
To discuss your situation, please reach out to Adele Crane.
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