I’ve called it–the era of selling we have been operating in is dead, but what does that mean for sales managers? If sales has changed that means that sales management must also change if you want to thrive in this new era of sales.
For instance, geography is rarely a barrier to sales in today’s environment. Sales are processed through computers, facilitated through rapid delivery, and financed through mechanisms that occur with the swipe of a credit card.
The barriers to product information have fallen as well. Global access to information and technology allows buyers to assess differences between products on their own. It is also estimated that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of purchase transactions without talking to a human.
So what does this mean for sales managers? The companies excelling in today’s environment understand three critical ways that sales management has changed. The question is, do you?
1) Higher-Level Sales Require More Efficiency
Higher-level sales now require a greater level of efficiency. Why? Because shifts in the businesses-to-business (B2B) buying process require more resources to hunt opportunities than in the past. You may need a larger team because it often takes more time and cycles to meet with all the people on your clients’ teams. You’ll also need more time and resources to gather additional insight and information to shape your offering to your prospect. All this means you must be more efficient and targeted than in the past. If you let your salespeople run amok, calling on whomever they choose, you will get a lower yield because there is little selectivity and no focus on efficiency. Tighten up your overall filter for assessing the marketplace and ensure that opportunities are highly qualified to increase the effectiveness of your salespeople.
2) Sales Management Equals “Portfolio Management”
In the past, salespeople had a fair amount of control over the selling process. They were given a territory, a pricing structure, a margin target, and a set of products and services that they could offer, and then sent out to sell. They were responsible for managing their territory and producing results. Sales management provided oversight, but generally stayed out of the way. Now, salespeople do not own their territories, customers, prospects, or product lines—the company does. It is now your responsibility as a sales manager to look at every sales rep, sales function and system, and marketing effort not as an expense, but as an investment, similar to how investment bankers look at a portfolio. It is your responsibility to make these investments wisely.
3) Tighter Margins Require Bigger Sales
The economic changes that are happening are created by many factors, including high competition. You’ve probably noticed a greater commoditization of products and services. That pressure is starting to squeeze out the margins you may have once had. Fundamentally, you’re not able to provide the same level of commission to salespeople for small transactions. So how do you survive in this new commoditized market? You lead your sales team to land bigger transactions. Instead of focusing on small, single-issue, isolated problems, your sales team will need to be equipped to solve bigger problems—the kind of systemic, organizational problems that affect the overall output of your customer’s business.
Want to learn more about how to grow in this new era of sales? Keep an eye out for the upcoming book: Life After the Death of Selling: How to Thrive in the New Era of Sales