The Sales Game Has Changed – Here’s How to Keep Up
Everyone knows that the game has changed. But the flow of new customers is still, obviously, the lifeblood of our organizations. So, what has changed and what has replaced it? Firstly, we need to believe the old has died and that we need to keep abreast of the new, relevant process of connecting with people in our marketplace.
The changes occurring today make the new business world more complex than years ago. We are also facing macroeconomic recession, broken supply chains, and geopolitical upheavals, which are moving us towards an altered workforce dealing with changing customer behaviour.
What are, and how do we keep up with the changes?
The B2B focus needs to be using SaaS to become flexible and grow smartly. With the average buyer using more than nine channels in their buying journey, we need to make three dramatic shifts:
1. Adopt a value-creation mindset: Sales managers must create integrated solutions while tailoring the value proposition and building-in unique pricing arrangements.
2. Become omnichannel operators: Salespeople must work between multiple channels with different stakeholders whose preferences will vary across the board.
3. Develop continuous change-management: Sales managers must become cultural change agents, looking at go-to-market changes and offerings while building internal capabilities.
Reskilling is one of the fundamental changes which is never easy. Companies that have met the challenge have significantly higher revenue.
Sales changes encompass to whom and how companies sell their services and products, the channels used, and the back office supporting the new changes. Add to that addressing the go-to-market strategies, salesforce effectiveness and key account management, and we have a picture of what we have to keep up with.
Getting back to the three fundamental changes, those who have adopted a transformative value-driven mindset are approaching potential customers sooner with a consultative, tailored value proposition approach. In other words, offer a customized solution showing what you can do for them by producing a 100% “on the target” sample for them.
Quantitative and analytical skills are essential for the reskilling of salespeople. Add to this development for solution selling, deep product knowledge and account-planning skills. Adopting an agile approach is part and parcel of the success strategy.
The Agile methodology is a method to manage a project by breaking it up into several phases. It involves collaboration with stakeholders and continuous improvement at every stage. Once the work begins, teams cycle through a process of planning, executing, and evaluating. This approach can be transformative.
Getting back to the channels. Delivering the appropriate experience in the correct channel is today essential. With people in the sales funnel at various levels, you will need AI data analytics to advise you on which interactions are helpful with multiple audiences working simultaneously.
We will need to be equipping our sales forces with account-specific customer information. Some will be using chat over email, which may be the customer’s preference – we need the account information.
Data-driven account planning for our sales team is critical for relationship building, networking capabilities, and enhancing negotiation skills. These skills equip our employees with insights, customer intelligence, and tools to anticipate questions and prepare helpful and specific responses.
Put all this together, and we end up with the new salesperson’s skills needed to keep up with the changing times.
Maybe we think we have met all these new challenges, but before we become aware, customers have disrupted the playing field again.
What do I mean?
Research and analytics tell us that customers want more convenience and a more personalized experience – if we don’t give it, our opposition will. Many B2B companies are waking up to the fact that the B2B SaaS process is never-ending – keep this critical fact in your decision-making when creating a new approach to interacting with your target market.
The new game includes further integration, greater orchestration, and genuine personalizing. This happens through continuous change management.
What is the core of change management?
The first aspect of change management is regularly refreshing development, training, and incentive programs – working quickly through the agile workflow. Speed of change is an essential factor in change management. Look back a decade and see how fast some of today’s most successful leaders have changed.
Agile workflow and taking small steps at a time are the key to the process. Try things in small groups and check what works and what does not work. This agile mindset will keep us moving quickly and effectively.
The purpose is to get a minimum viable product out to customers as quickly as possible. The sales team’s culture must adopt this new approach of rapid testing and “out” to the customer. Embracing this new way of working is difficult as salespeople naturally do not like change – old habits die hard!
Much time must be spent developing the organization’s sales culture – it is not a quick fix or change. Perhaps we can move forward by role-modelling expected behaviour and showing what can be gained by the sellers by changing to the new methods of working. Place emphasis on why you are doing it.
This cannot be left to chance. Create a compelling “what’s in it for me” story. Empower the frontline by adding incentives to the new behaviours and then reinforcing them with your performance management system. Even create time for peer coaching and mentorship.
Training needs to change – no more broad-brush approaches. Training needs to be individualized and experiential – focussing on capability gaps. Sellers then need to apply what they have learnt in the field and give feedback as part of their coaching and re-orientation.
Sales leaders need to see this coaching, training and mentoring as their top priority. These leaders must regularly revisit the incentive structures and their performance management, adjusting metrics to maintain momentum.
The Sales Leaders are the pivotal aspect of sustaining the new sales game. They take the lead in delivering a new level of performance in the next generation of excellence bringing long-term customer relationships and a significantly greater ROI.