Sales Is The New Frontier Of The Digital Era

There will be no need for salespeople by the year 2020. Again. In case you missed it, read this article published in the Harvard Business Review on the dire predictions on the end of sales people. The crux of the article is that salespeople aren’t going anywhere, but we need to evolve. Well that’s a relief! We can change, and evolve. No problem! Right? Wait a minute. What does that mean, exactly? It means that sales people and teams who are doing what they do today, will not exist if they are doing the same things in 4 years from now. Each of the predictions listed in the article denote a major shift in the way sales is done over time.

Enter the digital era, which we are living in now, and which continues to snowball at an alarming rate, and suddenly this dire hype has some validity to it. “Order taking” positions for sales people will start to dissipate, but at the same time, the need for new breed sales people (advisers) who understand the complexities of new technology and technology implementations will increase – there to guide buyers and show them the value which different solutions bring to their specific needs.

Slowly but surely, we are seeing businesses across the globe take up the theme of the digital revolution. New and improved ways of doing better things and doing things better. Investment in technology to help businesses evolve is on the rise. But then why are companies so slow to invest in developing the sales areas of their business geared to sell new technology, in new ways? This is because of a few complicated challenges businesses face when they consider sales investment. Below is a list of these challenges and how to address them:

  1. Business grew organically till now, and now the growth is slowing:

Many businesses were a part of something special when they started. They offer great products and solutions, and deliver excellent value to their clients, and as such have grown organically through word of mouth. But now with the advent of technology, new non-traditional players are entering their market, offering similar products and services at better rates. This results in the more traditional players having their market shares eaten, and losing ground at a steady pace to their competitors. Many large businesses are faced with this challenge. Of those, many don’t know what is happening, or won’t admit it, and those that do don’t know how to fix the problem.

No doubt, the starting point should be the sales strategy. What is your business’s core competencies, and how can those competencies be sold into different market segments, in different ways? What would the value proposition look like for those markets, and what resources do we need to get there? These are just some of the areas to start focusing on, and are needed to form the basis of a comprehensive sales strategy that will deliver your sales team of the future.

  1. Sales processes are non-existent or outdated and no longer support the sales strategy:

This could also be a symptom of businesses that grew organically, but more simply, the need to evolve never goes away. Businesses should be reassessing the way they do things on a regular basis. For many businesses, processes were never documented and if so, seldom reviewed, because it was never deemed necessary. But to move to the next level of selling in an ever increasingly competitive market, the processes are crucial to deliver the sales strategy.

In this day and age, the sales processes need to mirror the buying process of your target markets. This means that if you are targeting different products and services to different markets, each product and market segment will most likely require different sales processes. For your sales processes to mirror your clients’ buying process, you need to take careful consideration in mapping out your clients’ buying process and aligning your sales activities deliver information strategically and seamlessly along the sales cycle to increase your chances of winning opportunities, and reduce the time required to do so.

  1. We have bought a CRM, therefore we have invested in sales:

Most probably the biggest misconception businesses face when investing in sales. This is not to say that a CRM is not a good sales investment. But even the best CRM is just a tool to automate processes. Processes deliver strategy, and strategy determines the future of your sales team, and in most cases, your business. If you do not have an end to end sales strategy that is going to deliver your business to the digital era, you are stacking the odds up against your sales and business success.

Do not consider a CRM until you have a robust strategy for your business and rock solid processes to deliver that strategy. Once the strategy and processes are in place, you need to use a pipeline management tool that can mirror and automate your sales process. This tool should be visual for your sales people and serve as a value add for them to close opportunities quicker and easier, as opposed to add to their admin burdens, which sales people hate so passionately.

  1. Lack of insights into their sales performance and activities:

A lot of businesses lack the insight into what is actually happening in their sales teams. Without this information, how can money be invested in sales to address the challenges the business is facing? This ultimately results in a vicious cycle (no strategy, no information. No information, no strategy enhancement). This is due to the fact that the strategy and processes are not in place to deliver the insightful information needed to re-inform strategy, and a lot of CRM’s don’t deliver on the promises of big data that were made at the point of sale.

With the right strategy, processes and CRM or automation tools, you can ascertain the specific metrics that determine success for your business, and measure them accordingly. With the right data and measurements, you can accurately predict the revenue for your business and take corrective action as and when necessary. These metrics go down to a very granular level, and knowing them will allow you to make measured, educated changes in your sales strategy and processes.

The advent of technology is changing the way businesses do business. Some of these shifts are enormous, and in order to truly take advantage of all that technology has to offer, your sales teams need to align to the changes that technology brings.  All of the challenges discussed above need to be addressed, answered and catered for as quickly as possible. For more information on how to address these challenges, sign up for our newsletter, or get in touch for a cup of coffee.

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