THE SALESPERSON NEEDS TO RELY ON LOGIC, ANALYSIS, ORGANIZATION, IN ADDITION TO HIS/HER OWN PERSONA SKILLS IN A FASTCHANGING MARKET. BECAUSE HOW YOU SELL IT NOW COUNTS MORE THAN WHAT YOU SELL
by Paola Caiozzo, Paolo Guenzi and Marco Aurelio Sisti, SDA Professors of Marketing.
Sales are a major function of firms in almost all industries. In many markets, stagnation, hypercompetition, and shortening of the lifecycle of products have ruled over the last decade, so now how you sell is often more important than what you sell.
Keeping in mind these prospects, many companies, starting with transnational corporations, have launched ambitious projects to transform sales in the pursuit of commercial excellence. Strategies have been renewed, as so gave sales facilities and management processes, in a businees environment increasingly revolving around the needs of markets and customers.
The role of sales and salespeople in now reinterpreted in a dynamic and collaborative fashion, as selling is becoming ever more integrated with modern marketing management processes. Some of the changes above described concern a wide majority of firms across industries, and so these are trends which companies and sales managers should follow with the utmost priority.
In the scenario outlined above, the human factor remains crucial for success in sales. For example, according to the Chally Group (a specialized research consultancy), in 39% of cases the choice of suppliers depends on the value added offered by the salesperson to the customer, while according to recent estimates by GSB – Global Sales Barometer, the sales force continues to generate about 83% of a company’s average turnover, while the remaining 17% is apportioned to other channels (direct marketing 8%, call centers & telemarketing 3%, e-commerce 5%, mobile commerce 1%).
This implies a significant effort to increase the skills required from people working in commercial departments, at all organizational levels. Today selling is more about science and less about art: natural talent needs to be supplemented by strong methodological grounding, in order to correctly interpret the new roles in the evolution of the sales function.
The key elements of success
Three elements are then key. Firstly, the acquisition of logical and analytical tools by managerial positions, so that a better focus on relevant performance variables is possible, based on the definition of objectives, calculation of results, and compensation schemes for commercial agents. Augmenting the comprehension of these variables means to be able to better govern them, and this cannot but have a positive effect of the productivity of the sales force. Secondly, the development of organizational, leadership, and coaching abilities to activate human resources management processes that are fundamental to motivate people in the sales network and increase selling performance. Thirdly, the acquisition of analytical and methodological skills by salespeople, so that they can supplement their quick intuition and relational skills. This means being able to master data analysis (sales forecast, customer profitability analysis etc.), in order to better channel effort and give more weight to the selling proposition.
We can thus say that the undergoing market changes are prompting a redefinition of the role and nature of selling activities. The search for excellence about “how you sell it” calls for a reconfiguration of the wealth of skills of salespeople and sales managers, giving them a critical role in selecting and developing commercial talent.