October 31, 2011 Keenan

The 6 Biggest Changes in Today’s Sales Environment You Need to Know About

Sales is changing.  There is no debating it. There are a number of changes in sales today that impact our ability to be successful and make our numbers.  These changes are changing the way we connect with prospects, differentiate ourselves from the competition, and position our products and services.  The sales people, leaders and organizations that understand and embrace these changes will be far better positioned to meet their numbers than those who don’t.

The 6 Biggest Changes in Today’s Sales Environment

Customers are super busy and don’t have time for you:

Email, smartphones, texting, cloud computing, etc. are supposed to make us all more productive. In many respects however, they’ve just made us busier. Constantly connected, customers and prospects are buried. The have more work than time to get things done. Customers and prospect are in constant priority mode, continually determining what is important and what isn’t.  And guess what? Your email, cold call or text message isn’t important. Neither is your new solution. Customers and prospects are so busy, even when they know they have a problem and know it needs to be fixed, if they can band-aid it they will. The just don’t have the time to address it.

According to Jill Konrath and her new book, Snap Selling, buyers are crazy-busy and have too much to do. Jill says; “When people have too much to do and impossible deadlines, it changes how they make decisions. And, it changes their expectations of you too.”  Jill is right.

To sell in this super, fast past environment it is critical to do as much of the work for you customer as possible. It takes heroic like creativity to capture their attention and you have to consider yourself their sales sherpa, becoming an indispensable sales resource.

Customers and prospects are busier today than they have ever been.

Relationships matter less:

Relationships matter less than they did before. According to the Sales Executive Council, sales reps fall into five distinct profiles; hard-workers, lone-wolves, reactive problem solvers, relationship builders and challengers.  According to the study relationship builders represent only 7% of high-performers. Traditional relationship builder characteristics of being generous, agreeable, supportive, available and service oriented prohibits the discovery of new, unique and transformative solutions. Relationship building is a circuitous route to the sale. It makes it difficult for problems to be identified and solved. Customers don’t have the time nor inclination to take a circuitous route. The want ideas now.

The days of “friendship” buying are dead.  All sales are becoming more complex. Customers are super busy, (see #1.) Achieving results as quickly as possible drives everything. Dinners, golf, lunches, boondoggles, and casual conversations are nice, but they don’t get the customer any closer to their goals.  Relationships only matter now if they allow you to teach and get customers to their goals.

Customers want to be taught, they want experts:

I had a customer explicitly tell me this a few years back and I never forgot it.  Customers want experts. They want their sales people to educate them on what is happening in the space. They want guidance in how to execute their strategy and how your products and services can help with that strategy.  Customers and prospects are too busy (see #1, again) to do it all themselves.  There is too much information coming at them to try, even if they weren’t. Today’s best sales people need to be “trusted filters” helping customers and prospects cut through the noise and provide them with the relevant information they need to achieve their goals. Today’s sales environments require sales people come to the table WITH ideas, ideas the customer may never have thought of. Sales reps need to lead their customers and the sale. This is done by being the expert and having information and knowledge customers and prospects don’t have.

The customer no longer leads the sale, the sales people do:

Once upon a time the customer or prospect led the sale.  Sales people built a strong relationship, pitched their wares, provided support, and the customer made choices. Today customers and prospects are too busy the don’t have the time do all the work.  They expect sales people to come the table with new ideas, approaches and techniques to solve their problems. Leadership is a critical skill for today’s sales people. They must be comfortable making customers uncomfortable. Sales reps need to be provocative. They need to take control of the sale for the customer. Today’s sale is led by the sales team. The customer is expecting it. Customers want and expect their sales people to lead the sale.

Social media matters:

Any sales person who, when asked if they’re on Twitter replies with; “I don’t care what someone had for lunch.” doesn’t get it.  Social media is not a toy, it’s a tool that is here to stay. Sales people need to understand the value of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Linkedin, Gist, Yammer, blogging and more as real selling tools. Social media is about information, collaboration, and engagement.  Social media is a must in today’s selling world.  For today’s sales people, social media is a prospecting tool, a selling tool, a cold calling tool, a sharing tool, a research tool, etc.

If you’re looking for proof social media makes a difference, check this out. This poor cat is about to lose a client thanks to Twitter.

Today’s sales people need to learn how to use social media to drive their business. Embracing social media is no longer a nice to have, it’s a must in selling.

Technology matters: 

Don’t confuse technology with social media.  The applications and tools available to sales people today is massive. The days of the sales person’s rolodex and a client based CRM as the tools of the trade are far from over. Technology is absolutely reshaping the sales landscape. Cloud computing, the Internet, browser plugins, CRM applications, and mobile applications are giving sales people more tools to accelerate the sale, connect with customers, and prospects than ever before.

Technology is touching every aspect of the selling process, from prospecting emails with yesware, to customer and prospect research with Gist and Rapportive, to demonstration tools like Glance Networks and iMeet, to commission management systems like xactly.  The list of sales, sales enablement, and sales productivity technologies is immense. How many of these technologies are you familiar with; Echosign, KnowledgeVision, Lattice-Engines, Qvidian, WhiteBoard Selling, IntroMojo?

There is more technology designed to make selling more effective and efficient than ever before.  The key now, is to know what the technologies are and how to use them.

Sales is changing. We have to lead. What once worked, works no longer. Relationships are no longer enough. Social media matters. The tools of the past are no longer efficient. Our customers and prospects worlds are different and they expect more from us.

Do you see the change?

 

 

 

 

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Comments (8)

  1. CS Sales Guy

    Spot on Jim.  I wonder if this was the post that your blogging tool killed for you that you tweeted about….
    I think the most important part of the whole post is that clients are busier than ever.  It is number one for a reason and all the other things you posted about are an offshoot of that to me.  So, with your prospecting, your follow up, your meetings, your negotiations and your closing, we need to interact in a way that takes this into consideration.  That doesn’t mean going faster in a meeting or emailing them more to get a first call.  It means doing it smarter to capture their attention at every interaction point.

  2. Yes it was, can you tell? :)

    Yes it means being smarter. It also means being more connected to the customers business, the industry, and their associated problems than it does to the customer or buyer.

  3. Jeff

    I would add one more to the list. Buyers are making decisions on whether to buy before they even speak with a sales person. I often get voice mails from sales peoples and if their pitch is interesting I immediately do some research on the web. I look at reviews, complaints, ratings on their service or product. I might also check out competitors. 90% of my decision is made on this research.

  4. Jim, you’ve given me some things to think about.

    I really appreciate what you say about salespeople being expected to lead the conversation. I’ve encountered situations in which I’ve waited for the customer to determine what’s next. I have mistakenly assumed that customers want to be in control. Big mistake. Of course, customers don’t want to be manipulated and tricked into taking action, but they aren’t going to do the saledperson’s job. If the salesperson doesn’t lead, they will assume the salesperson isn’t going anywhere. They won’t move the sales conversation forward. They will end it. Sales leadership is a great topic and one that should be discussed more frequently. Customer don’t h

  5. Anonymous

    Hey Jim, interesting article — thank you for including Rapportive!

    I personally think relationships are just as important as ever, but that social media gives us a spectrum of new tools to start and maintain those relationships over time.  This is certainly a huge part of the motivation behind Rapportive — we want to make you brilliant with people :)

    Rahul, CEO of Rapportive

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