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Transformation of the Sales and Sales-Management Roles: Will You Make It?

NancyToday's blog post is by Nancy Martini, President and CEO of PI Worldwide, the global management consulting firm and publisher of the Predictive Index (PI) and Selling Skills Assessment Tool (SSAT). Nancy is the author of the soon-to-be-released Scientific Selling: Creating High Performance Sales Teams through Applied Psychology and Testing.

The role of sales is being transformed by a set of conditions we have never seen before. The good old days are not coming back. Sales managers and reps who adjust their methods of operating to succeed in today's environment will excel in 2012 and beyond. 

The transformation began in 2002, when the Internet became an integral part of selling. New technologies continue to affect every aspect of the modern corporation, and nowhere are they used more than in the sales area. From email to automated supply chain to cloud computing to smartphones to Web conferencing to search engines to social media, we are thrust into a world where the rules have changed for buyers and sellers.

Ten years later in 2012, we need to address the implications of this transformation on sales, sales management, and the future of selling. The following trends represent a highlight of this massive set of changes.

Trend #1: Buyers have more information. Today's buyers can access a wealth of information in a matter of seconds, which changes their needs and expectations of interacting with a sales rep. From Websites, they can gather hard data on products, companies, competition, and industries, and they can gather soft data from friends, colleagues, and strangers (anonymous reviews) on social-media sites. Bottom line: buyers are theoretically better educated before they talk to a rep or, more dangerously, they think they are.

Trend #2: Selling is more demanding. Today's buyer has less tolerance for old selling tactics, and today's reps need to possess all the core sales skills of a top consultant: intelligence to assimilate information rapidly, behavioral fit to excel under pressure, stamina to endure the sales cycle, and resilience to continue in the face of adversity. Most of all, today's sales reps require the wisdom to manage the sales process, rather than do something to the prospect.

Trend #3: Buyers are more risk averse. As the economy has become more unsettled, customer reactions have become more cautious, spending is more conservative, internal controls have increased, decision making has moved up, and reps have less access to those decision makers. Gatekeepers are more likely than ever before to create barriers to stakeholders.

Trend #4: Selling is becoming more professional. Much like the transformation of medicine in the early twentieth century, the specialization of selling has led to the creation of a professional class. The evidence is growing: more business schools are now offering sales courses, more sales reps are getting advanced degrees (MBAs), and there are now roughly 40 colleges and universities in the United States that offer a degree in sales. The overall specialization trend is toward education and professionalism – and that's good for both buyers and sellers.

Trend #5: Selling is becoming more global. Globalization has been forcing the transformation of the sales role, and today, "global intelligence" and the ability to compete in a global marketplace is not a nice-to-have, it's a must. Sales teams have to learn how to balance cultural and regional realities and social norms and language. The result is a sales environment that requires increased skills in team selling, "world selling" knowledge, higher reliance on sophisticated selling strategies, and an increased need for a true global business view.

Are you and your reps prepared to win amidst this sea of change? How many on your team possess the behaviors and skills needed to win? How do you know the difference between those who are barely hanging on and those who will flourish? These are questions that every sales team will face. 

Fortunately, all of these conditions can be answered with effective sales skills, increased professionalism of reps, accurate coaching by sales managers, and a solid set of data to eliminate errors and take solid steps forward. In 2012 and beyond, successful companies will be those that leverage scientific data for accuracy, enable reps to succeed with relevant training and coaching, and create smarter reps to win in this transformational, technology-driven global economy.

Invitation: Join Nancy Martini on Wednesday, Jan 11th at 2:00 pm EST in a webinar entitled How science will drive sustainable sales results in 2012.

Disclosure: PI Worldwide is a Selling Power customer.

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Mark Emond

Excellent post Nancy. I would add that sales collaboration with marketing is now more important than ever. With marketing (through inbound channels, lead nurturing and content marketing) now playing an increasing role deeper and deeper in the buying cycle, it's critical to have a collaborative go-to-market approach. Studies show that B2B buyers don't want to interact with sales until 2/3rds of the way through their buying process, putting more emphasis on marketing interaction through the education and solution phases of the buying cycle. Understanding each other's roles, responsibilities and hand-offs is more relevant now than ever before.

Dhruv@Management Consulting

Today Selling is no more an ART, it is your knowledge on the client and his needs and how you disseminate this knowledge using technology which will give you the competitive edge. In 2012 charm will not SELL, Technology driven KNOWLEDGE will. Nancy good post and thanks to highlighting the challenges laying ahead for Sales Management in 2012 and beyond.

Dave DiStefano

Great post, Nancy. Science that makes sense of all the hard and soft data you mention accounts for much of the difference between mediocre and stellar sales teams. Sales orgs used to measure success retroactively, which was like driving through a rearview mirror. Now they can turn on the headlights with predictive analytics. At Richardson, we call this critical set of analytics verifiable outcomes: Those few tangible indicators that give sales leaders insight into the accuracy and quality of their teams’ forecasts. The key idea: We can measure specific sales behaviors and correlate them to specific deals in the sales pipeline. The key principle: What can be measured can be changed. By changing sales behaviors we can change outcomes. And as a result, we can predict the direction of our sales. More here on my blog: http://ow.ly/8GaWW

excel development

Every company is different so I can only tell you what I look for in a person I am hiring for Sales Management. I look for a persons drive in how they answer my questions. Alot of my questions are irrelevant, I am just testing someones conventionalism and reaction time. I look for the drive in a person by their willingness to win at all costs (with respect for quality of course). I want someone who can drive and motivate others at the same time develop those reporting to him and understands the importance of developing his/her team.

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