Back to the Future

back-to-the-future-DeLoreanSoon, media will start with the 2013 retrospectives and 2014 predictions.  So, I decided to scoop EVERYONE with my 2014 predictions for sellers.

WHAT’S THE FUTURE OF SALES?

Everyone, me included, wants to be ahead of the curve and anticipate change. That way, we can develop our strategies and tools to deal with the change before it arrives. This gives us a competitive advantage and positions us favorably to close business while our competitors are figuring it out.

CHANGE GONNA COME

Like the Curtis Mayfield classic said, change is inevitable.  Some great, some not so, but you don’t get to pick.  You just have to deal with it.  Here are some of the things I expect to see:

  • BUYING POWER – The balance of power will continue to shift toward the buyer, as the amount of information available to them increases.
  • LIFE IN THE FAST LANE – That’s what my Supermarket calls their Self-Checkout lane.  Look for increased use of this sales channel.  It’s faster, cheaper and has fewer customer service issues as the customer makes the choices, rather than responds to the rep-driven sales process.
  • I, ROBOT – Increased use of sales automation, much of it in the background, will both add to leads to your queue and close deals as outlined above.   I’m working on these kinds of processes now and the good news is that automation can generate more, better-qualified leads for you.  The bad news is, as above, buyers will have more self-serve options too.
  • THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE – Whether you say inside/outside sales; customer service/sales or something else, the difference between these roles will widen.  And with all the above, I expect to see more “inside” sales jobs created, at the expense of “outside” sales jobs.  It just makes technical and business sense, that if more automation increases the information buyers have and a company’s CRM system can nurture the leads, prospects will require less active closing, less objection handling.  The “closing” process can be handled by people with a specialized skillset.
  • MANAGING MORE – Managers’ roles will  be changing, too.  They’ll spend a larger percentage of their time analyzing data, interpreting trends and working with IT to fine tune the processes I outlined briefly above.  Managers will spend less time coaching, mentoring and growing sellers and more of their time making strategic and tactical changes in reaction to the data they receive, then driving these changes to their teams.

“Change brings opportunity.” Nido Qubein

NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR SELLERS

I’m not trying to color this picture one way or the other and am treating inside and outside sales similarly.  The lines are blurring anyway.

  • THE VALUE OF YOU – You counter the Buyer’s increased power by adding to the value of YOU through your:
    • Product knowledge
    • Knowledge of the prospect’s business
    • Competitive intel affecting the prospect’s business
    • Ability to develop trust, based upon the above
  • SERVICE, SERVICE, SERVICE – The old saying “they buy on price, leave because of service” is your opportunity.  You want to become an unpaid member of every client’s team.  They are being asked to do more with less and if you are a force multiplier, you become harder to live without.
  • GEEK UP – The faster you wrap your head around data, the more successful you will be.  Selling on gut is the 8-track tape of sales.  Clients are making decisions based upon available data and so must you.  Understand your metrics and you can crack your success code.
  • MULTITASK WITH MONOFOCUS – Taking on more tasks and/or responsibility is a well-proven strategy for job security.  It’s also a great client retention strategy.
  • YOU ARE YOUR NETWORK – As I noted above, Managers will spend more time with data, driving results and less time building skills, nurturing and mentoring.  Expect to get less from your boss and more from your network. Your peers, former colleagues will become more important sources of feedback.  Give and you will get.
  • SPECIALIZATION – Technical sales has used the team concept (techie/seller) for years and this will spread.  I look for:
    • Prospectors – Sellers who are good at and enjoy canvassing, responding to inquiries and opening opporunities.
    • Qualifiers – Sellers who will qualify the opportunity from a technical standpoint – can we DO this, do we WANT to do this
    • Closers – No explanation necessary
    • Relationship managers – ibid

Calling this as I see it, like and umpire.  Agree or disagree, what’s important is that you’re always looking forward and anticipating change.

“I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.”                                                                           Aldous Huxley

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