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How to give your sales force a competitive advantage

April 4, 2014 in Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Leadership, Sales Strategy, Sales Trends

Which sales trends will most affect your business?

How can you make the most of these changes?

How can you steer your sales strategy to deliver sustainable results?

How can you give your sales force a competitive advantage?

Barrett-Sales-Trend-Report-2014These questions were posed at the inaugural 12 Sales Trends Annual Business Breakfast hosted by Barrett.  Focusing on what to do in light of the 12 Sales Trends for 2014 – The Thinking Sales Organisation Peter Finkelstein, Barrett’s Head of Sales Strategy, presented a very enlightening and informative speech on what we can do and how we can navigate our way using the 12 Sales Trends of 2014 as signposts to help us stay ahead of the game and turn thinking into action.

This is the second of two articles and summarises the speech that Peter presented to a full house of engaged and interested leaders. You will also find the link to the 34 minute video of Peter’s full presentation.

Sales strategy is easy to define; however, making wise choices about where and how to compete, where and how to sell, and what to offer to defined groups of buyers so that the company can counteract the forces that threat to erode sales performance is an increasing challenge in markets today.

We are convinced that too many companies are slow to react or are failing to allocate resources to support their strategic thinking. As a result, they slow themselves down, eventually succumbing to their own inertia.

Being a Thinking Sales Organisation is going to be the only way to survive in 2014 and beyond

Sales managers who resist being strategic both as thinkers and interpreters are going to find themselves steadily falling behind their competitors, with increasing difficulty in being able to satisfy the demands of the markets.

Salespeople who don’t learn to think for themselves and who fail to be proactive are going to find their negotiating position being eroded.

And Senior Executives who fail to see sales as probably the single most important element of their value chain in 2014 are going to find the cost of survival becoming too expensive to maintain.

With these considerations in mind Peter shared some of his thoughts about the Thinking Sales Organisations.

Sales Trend 1 – Sales Managers will be forced to drive costs out of sales

  • Find ways to enable their teams to sell in smaller geographic territories and reach more customers in an area, at lower cost, in the process reducing the cost of delivery, service and support.
  • Focus on new and more efficient ways to service low value customers.
  • Saturation selling is going to become the way to penetrate segments and the Internet will become more proactive as a store-front.

telesales-need-to-rethink-operationsSales Trend 2 – Telesales will have to make dramatic changes

  • A more strategic sales approach by tele-sales
  • Tele-sales operations has to be a part of an overall strategic initiative, in tandem with the Internet, social media and field sales operations as one integrated sales organisation.

Sales Trend 3 – Sales Excellence Management will find its correct place in the chain

  • Re-incorporate sales excellence into the sales manager’s activities with the responsibility for sales excellence and improving sales performance
  • Give sales managers the freedom to be leaders instead of super-salespeople

Sales Trend 4 – Sales Training Methodologies will change dramatically

  • Salespeople will need more, not less training  but they will also have less time to be trained
  • The most effective way to achieve ongoing training is through a blended learning approach using e-learning, classroom work and in-field coaching.

micro-sales-segmentationSales Trend 5 – The move to ‘micro’ sales segmentation

  • Instead of relying on market segmentation which is usually two dimensional, the 3 dimensional Sales Segmentation is the better option  – Attractiveness of the Segment, Attraction of the Company to buyers in the segment and Competitiveness on a narrow front.
  • This three dimensional approach is what fundamentally changes the game.

Sales Trend 6 – The low carbon economy creates sales opportunities

  • The shift in consumer sentiment —research reveals that upwards of 80% of consumers agree that companies should be responsible for fixing the environment— presents opportunities for sales leaders to develop strategies to capitalise on their organisation’s commitment to the environment.
  • Low / no carbon organisations can develop a competitive advantage that uniquely and meaningfully differentiates them from rivals.
  • Effective sales strategies are including low / no carbon companies as part of their segmentation criteria so that they can partner with like minded buyers.

Sales Trend 7 – The normalising of social media in sales

  • According to Forbes Magazine salespeople who use social media to sustain contact with prospects have a 78.6% better performance level than those who don’t.
  • Businesses need to ramp up their use of social media as part of their sales strategy to create real-time content and contacts.
  • Social media is rapidly becoming the window for salespeople to learn to listen and look through and engage with their buyers.
  • Those organisations that have social media strategies where salespeople are trained to use the medium are winning.
brain gears

Brain Gears of Smart Leaders

Sales Trend 8 – A radical shift in sales mindset

  • The Internet has enabled people to have human-to-human conversations.
  • Really effective sales leaders are implementing sales strategies that embrace this mindset and are pushing companies to move from competition to collaboration, from me to us; from talking at, to conversing with customers.
  • Encouraging everyone in the organisation to be meaningfully connected, in some way to the organisation’s customers.
  • Good selling is about helping people (customer, buyers, etc .) be successful. Finding ways to collectively achieve goals.
  •  The old supremacy and dominance sales model, where customers treated suppliers as vendors or minions has died.

Sales Trend 9 – Procurement Managers will become solutions salespeople too

  • Increased complexity and risk means that procurement has to assume responsibility for the creation and delivery of meaningful value.
  • Develop sales strategies that identify ways to help procurement deliver more internal value to their organisations
  • Get salespeople to change their mindset about procurement and look at developing the most reasonable partnership for these two.
Sales Strategy

Sales Strategy

Sales Trend 10 – Sales Strategy will become a legitimate leadership function

  • Sales Strategy is becoming a hot discipline for management.
  • Along with business and marketing strategies, sales strategy is now playing a leading role at the C-Level decision-making.
  • Management will look for more effective ways to prepare their sales teams for customer interactions and develop saturation strategies for covering every opportunity in a segment.

Sales Trend 11 – Selling in the Asian Century

  • A China strategy is needed for Australian business. Companies recognise the need to develop deeper engagement with their Chinese counterparts.
  • Australian salespeople will therefore need to study China, travel, live, work and speak Chinese.
  •  While our cultural links with Europe remain and our alliance with the US endures, our economic links have switched to Asia. With China going to be the world’s largest economy the strategic challenge for Australia is quite unique – we either agree to ride the tiger or get eaten by it.

Sales Trend 12 – The Age of the Enlightened Salesperson has arrived

  • Companies need to make hard decisions about how they want their buyers to see them – as vendors or partners; as mere suppliers or sustainable sources of value.
  • They need to translate these considerations into strategy that provides direction and a clear mission for the sales force.
  • Enlightened salespeople recognise that they need to invest in themselves and market themselves.
  • Salespeople need to step up to the plate, take some initiative and invest in themselves.


To watch Peter’s presentation, follow this link.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

How to build a High Performance Sales Unit

March 21, 2014 in Performance Management, Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Results

How does one go about building a high performance sales unit?

What does a high performance sales person actually look like?

What needs to be in place for high performance sales to flourish?

These and other questions are on the minds of many sales leaders, and if they are not they should be.

They are vexed questions too – not easily answered. Here’s why…

Unlike a computer which is a complicated system that has predictable outputs, sales operations are complex systems with many variables and unpredictable outputs.

complex-systemYet, many sales leaders from around the world continue to look for that one ingredient, that special factor that will give them the answers they are seeking.  It is human nature to want a simple answer. For simple problems simple answers can usually suffice, however, in complex systems determining high performance involves many factors that can also shift and change in their relevance as the complex system shifts and changes. There is no simple answer  because as soon as one variable changes it changes the other variables and so the answers change.

We know that you can build high performance units in sport for instance.  And while there are many variables in each defined sport, it is easier to build high performance units in these environments. Why? Because they are contained by rules, guidelines, and clearly defined operating environments with clear expectations.

Sales environments are not contained. They operate in open, messy terrains. For instance, up to 80% of the sale is outside the salesperson’s control.

So is it a futile exercise trying to build a high performance sales unit? Perhaps. However, if we are prepared to deal with variables that can change as swiftly as the weather and are ever vigilant to making adjustments to our sales operations, then we can create high performance sales units. And yes, it is like the ball juggler or the plate spinner, we will be forever looking at and managing multiple areas all at once.

So what do you need to factor in when looking at building a high performance sales unit?

Several things:

  1. Current Sales Strategy which will determine the approach sales people should be using and who your sales teams will be selling to.
  2. Sales Segments and the organisation’s position in these segments relative to their rivals.
  3. Expected Outcomes (output measures) for each segment i.e. growth, value, volume, product mix, customer support.
  4. Determine the Level of sales performance and overall competence required to achieve the goals for each sales segment. i.e. Do you put a strong sales performer in declining segment or a growth segment?
  5. Map the Sales DNA (Sales Competencies) of the required Knowledge, Skills and Mindset behaviours for the relevant Sales Role i.e. Inputs (capabilities and behavioural benchmarks). This information will form the base for any recruitment, training, coaching, and performance management resources.
  6. Measure a range of current Sales Performers against the Sales Benchmarks established for the relevant role (using a range of relevant assessments processes i.e. behavioural interviews, psych assessments, performance data, etc.). This will determine how closely the sales performers (top, average, new and poor) align with the model and performance criteria (established prior).
  7. Map Tacit Knowledge and Processes: Top sales performers and long serving salespeople are interviewed in order to establish present ‘best practice’ operations and garner tacit knowledge that is unique to their environment.

By mapping this information you will be able to outline the expected levels of sales capability for what ‘High Performance Sales’ needs to look like at the relevant sales level. ‘Relevant sales level’ is crucial here as your market is not a one-size-fits-all market. At any given time your business could have a variety of segments in which it needs to operate:

  • sales segmentationDeveloping segment
  • Growth segment
  • Competitive segment
  • Mature segment
  • Declining segment
  • Saturated segment

What ‘good’ sales performance needs to look like will vary from segment to segment. That is one example why creating a high performance sales unit is do damn difficult. It is not static and is ever changing.  What we need to do as sales leaders is clearly define in our sales strategy and sales segments so we always know who to put in where. And review, review, review.  Then and only then can we begin to define high performance in sales and look at our sales people’s capabilities around 4 key areas in whatever segment they are in:

  • Their ability to implement (Execute)
  • Their judgment (Decision-Making)
  • Their level of motivation (Energy)
  • Their ability to motivate others (Energise)

If you want to build a high performance sales unit please speak to us at Barrett. We have the knowledge, resources and capabilities to get you get started and help you put in place the disciplines to keep all those balls in the air and those plates spinning.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

12 Sales Trends for 2014 – The Thinking Sales Organisation

December 19, 2013 in Education in Sales, Sales Culture, Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Research

As 2013 comes to a close we firstly wanted to thank all our loyal readers for their continued support of our work. We also thought you would like to get a sneak peek of our Annual 12 Sales Trends Report for 2014. With the unprecedented changes we are experiencing as a result of the digital revolution and the commoditisation of quality we can no longer manage sales by processes and numbers alone – it’s become a thinking person’s game.   As a result, the Barrett Consulting Group’s annual Sales Trends Report for 2014 has selected the theme: “The Thinking Sales Organisation”.

Barrett-Sales-Trend-Report-2014Sales operations are complex systems that involve many variable outcomes making it almost impossible to predict, with any degree of certainty, what will happen. Nothing in sales has ever been predictable. Now, with rampant change, that unpredictability has increased in pace and impact. That is why this Sales Trends report focuses on a number of important variables that will impact the success or otherwise of sales operations in 2014.
The following is a sneak peek of each of the 12 sales trends. You can purchase and download the detailed 49 page report of the 12 Sales Trends for 2014 at www.salesessentials.co/shop now to see which sales trends will have the greatest impact on your sales operations in 2014.

Sales Trend 1 – Sales Management Will Look to Drive Costs Out of Sales

In 2014, sales managers are going to come under increasing pressure to drive costs out of sales. While being effective and generating more business will continue as the main focus of selling, cutting cost out of sales and selling at better margins are going to be the two primary challenges, as management looks to squeeze profits in a market that is somewhat stagnant. As a result there are likely to be five major focus areas including: sales managers redefining sales territories; looking for new and more efficient ways to service low-value customers; and a shift away from volume as an indicator of sales success to a combination of volume and value.

Sales Trend 2 -  Telesales will have to make dramatic changes

telesales-need-to-rethink-operationsWith the increasing demands of more sophisticated buyers, telesales operators, who have traditionally focused on the uncomplicated sale of easy-to-understand commodities, are going to have to increase their knowledge base and learn to sell solutions to buyers who are more demanding, more knowledgeable and with higher expectations. This shake up means a radical re-think for telesales operations. Smart companies will see their telesales teams as a vital part of their overall sales operation. Some may even bring back in house those telesales teams that were previously outsourced or off shored.

Sales Trend 3 -  Sales Excellence Managers will find their real role

Smart companies are dispensing with their sales excellence operations and incorporating it back into the sales management function.  This sales trend will see sales managers, who are and have always been responsible for sales excellence, face pressure to resume this responsibility and deliver sales excellence. In the process sales excellence managers will either revert to their original role of sales training managers or find themselves being deployed elsewhere in the sales operations chain.

Sales Trend 4 -  Sales Training Methodologies are going to change

Sales training is not going to disappear; however, it will change its shape. As the market becomes more complex and competition more virulent salespeople will need more, not less training. But they will also have less time to be trained. These two forces – increased competition with the need to up skill salespeople and less time for training – will make identifying different training methods key to success.  The trend in 2014 will be for companies to reduce the cost of training whilst still developing their salespeople. Blending e-learning with class room work and in-field coaching is going to become the focal point of training in the new year.

micro-sales-segmentationSales Trend 5 – The move to Micro Sales Segmentation

The complexities of selling in 2014 are going to demand a re-think on the part of sales managers. Relying, as they have in the past, on marketing’s broader brush approach to segmentation is not going to cut it anymore and sales will have to re-assess how it goes about segmenting target markets.  As sales is learning, becoming tighter, almost micro market focused, defining the most attractive segments is the function of strategic sales in 2014. Getting it wrong can end up by costing the organisation too much.

Sales Trend 6 – The low carbon economy sales opportunities

barrett-solar-install-smallDespite many governments lagging behind in terms of creating and endorsing low carbon policies and industries, forward thinking organisations are taking the lead on creating low / no carbon businesses and partnering with each other. And it’s not just big business, there is a growing number of SMEs (small to medium enterprises) driving change too. There are massively big opportunities for innovation and product/service development in a low carbon economy as well as social evolution.

Sales Trend 7 -  The normalizing of Social Media in Sales

This sales trend is seeing businesses really ramping up their use of social media and in much more sophisticated ways. Rather than seeing social media as a tack on to the marketing budget, smart businesses are now creating their own social media departments who are actively working with sales, marketing and other departments, in concert, to create real-time content that is engaging, relevant and interactive.

brain gearsSales Trend 8 -  A radical shift in sales mindset

This sales trend is all about the radical shift in the sales mindset that currently is underway in organisations as prophesised by the Cluetrain Manifesto 15 years ago.  Smart companies are moving from competition to collaboration, from ‘me’ to ‘we’.  They are involving everyone across their business to be meaningfully connected in some way to the customers.

Sales Trend 9 -  Procurement need to be solutions salespeople too

This sales trend highlights how the skills, knowledge and mindset of procurement professionals are being expanded to include the capabilities of highly competent solutions sales professionals.

The latest whitepapers, running commentary threads on Linkedin Procurement Groups across the world, and Procurement Conferences and education bodies are all pointing towards procurement coming of age as a value creator and provider. No longer can procurement rest its case on ‘lowest cost’, ‘cheapest price’ or ‘supply of goods and services’; it must assume responsibility for the creation and delivery of real value beyond a price and general supply.

sales-strategySales Trend 10 – The Legitimisation of Sales Strategy

This sales trend will see Sales Strategy become the hot discipline of business in 2014 and beyond as business leaders work out how to move their sales operations out from under the shadow of Marketing and being a purely tactical function to being a strategic operation that works across the entire business value chain delivering real value and real growth.  Sales Strategy will begin to be studied by those charged with managing a sales team as well as other management disciplines to ensure sales and organisational success.  Along with business and marketing strategies, sales strategy will take a lead position at the C suite.

Sales Trend 11 – Learning to sell in the Asian Century

We are already even more reliant upon China for our prosperity than any comparable economy, at more than one quarter of our exports. We are China’s number one destination for foreign investment and a leading beneficiary of the education aspirations of its growing middle class. Yet many of us remain deeply ambivalent about the world-changing economic transformation of China and underestimate our need to be prepared.  Smart companies are recognising the need to develop deeper engagement with their Chinese counterparts – in universities, industries and governments. More Australian salespeople will need to study China, travel, live, work and speak Chinese.

enlightened-sales-personSales Trend 12 – The Enlightened Sales Person

This sales trend is seeing a new kind of sales person emerging in our midst.  Smart companies are becoming aware that they need a new kind of sales person, especially at the higher levels of business.  Customers, particularly in the Australian market and increasingly worldwide, are looking for a collaborative, more enlightened approach to selling, where they can work with sales professionals who bring their in-depth knowledge an understanding of how solutions can be applied and who work with their customers who also have an in depth knowledge of their own business and challenges.

For the detailed version of the Barrett 12 Sales Trends Report for 2014 please go to www.salesessentials.com/shop to purchase and download your copy there.  You can also get complimentary downloads of the detailed Sales Trends Reports for 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 here.

Finally, on behalf of the team at Barrett we wish you, your families and teams all the very best for the festive season and look forward to reconnecting in the new year.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

Going mobile – the rise of Smartphones in Sales

November 20, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Communication, CRM, Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Meetings, Social Media, Social Sales

In December 2012, we published the 12 Sales Trends Report for 2013 and released a brief summary of each trend. This month we are focusing on the Sales Trend “Going mobile – the rise of smartphones in sales”.

As Australia deals with the challenge of becoming more globally competitive, organisations are making greater use of both increased mobility as well as tele-conferencing using smartphone technology.   Anecdotal research is showing that smartphones are giving salespeople an edge in a number of ways.

sales video conferenceThis sales trend will see salespeople transitioning from always needing to rely on traditional selling practices such as in person face2face meetings and getting used to doing business via video streaming and smartphone chat apps.   The increase in mobile telecommunications technology means that salespeople and organisations will make more use of Skype, Tango, FaceTime and other mobile video conferencing technology when it comes to working with their clients. This also has the added benefits of cost savings and business sustainability i.e. decreased travel time, car costs, airfares and CO2 emissions.

Coupled with this, salespeople are now able to process orders on the spot with clients, run their sales territories, diarise appointments and update pipelines and client data bases via mobile apps linked to their organisation’s systems. Customers are already able to track their deliveries with apps and sim card technology; and what about circumventing clunky CRMs? There are mobile apps for that too.  Pretty soon everything will be in the palm of our hands, if it isn’t already.

According to Greg Martin, Director at Intilecta Apps¹, we need to think differently about data and how people like to access and use it.

Rather than build a CRM and make salespeople adapt to it, which rarely if ever works anyway, why not build apps around what salespeople already use and make the system work for them in familiar territory.   We need to harness the way salespeople work already to give management the visibility they need.  As Greg says “what if sales tools were so easy to use salespeople loved them and sales governance happened automatically?”

Now we are talking.   People are already using the apps of their preference to connect with one another and use the easy access to information in creative and useful time saving ways such as:

  • ten-example-business-apps-small Making effective presentations using videos and interactive slides shows via tablets and smartphones
  • Note taking & proposal preparation: Saving time by taking notes using a tablet in clients meetings which you can instantly upload to the cloud or email where the time take to prepare a proposal is halved because you do not have to transcribe your hand written notes to a typed format.  By the way, if you cannot come at typing on a tablet in a client meeting but can see yourself writing on a tablet with a stylus pen instead there are handwriting recognition apps that immediately translate your tablet handwriting into text format.
  • File Sharing: Sharing files with colleagues or clients at the touch of a screen or via cloud systems such as Dropbox..
  • Project Management: Easy project management, especially around communication, file sharing and task management and allocation with internal stakeholders, clients and suppliers: systems such as Basecamp or Trello are excellent project management systems you can see from anywhere..
  • Prospecting, Lead Generation, Networking & Social Media: apps for LinkedIn, FaceBook, Google+ and the like are making it easy to research, prospect and network with clients and prospects while on the road.  It is estimated that there are over 1,000 known social networking sites that are connecting over 1 billion people in the world.  In the business world there are at least 20 well respected business working sites that can be useful, LinkedIn by far the largest at this point in time, all accessible via smartphone technology.
  • Order placement and closing deals: orders and deals can be prepared using electronic forms and electronic signatures, all linked to company systems: both supplier and customer.
  • Monitoring Stock and Delivery Schedules: companies can give salespeople access to stock inventories in real time whereby salespeople can immediately relay to customers whether items are available.  In addition customers can tap into their deliveries by tracking shipment movements via sim and satellite technology i.e. Startrack Express
  • Collecting Customer Data: customer contact details can be easily uploaded and stored in company systems including photos, audio and video recordings (with permission of course), contact details, notes, electronic information, etc.
  • Virtual Meetings: as previously mentioned the instant meeting access via smartphones using the likes of Skype, Tango and other mobile video conferencing technologies will help salespeople and customers get on with doing business without having to wait on flights or spend hours in cars driving to and from appointments unnecessarily.  Face2face meetings are likely to be more specific and targeted for key activities and events.  Face2face client meetings will not stop but the frequencies will change because we will get the virtual face2face time we want and need.

Integration will be key: those organisations that allow their salespeople to access real time data, and connect with their clients via mobile technology will be giving their sales teams a distinct advantage. The technology is not so new but how people and organisations harness its power in the coming years will break new ground.


¹ Intilecta Apps supplies smartphone apps that bind with data held in any enterprise data store (local and cloud) and blends them together to create instant knowledge that can be accessed by people anywhere, anytime and on any business device.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

Why the Web is making salespeople more, not less important

September 17, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Sales Driven Organisations

Contrary to what the pundits say, the Web is making salespeople more, not less important.

In December 2012, we published the 12 Sales Trends Report for 2013 and released a brief summary of each trend. This month we are focusing on the Sales Trend “Instant Access to Solutions”.

The media is guilty of creating the propaganda around the demise of selling – propaganda that is not true. Too often a headline reports that buyers are turning to the Internet to do their shopping, leaving salespeople and companies out of the loop. Whilst it is true that about 70% of the purchase process in the B2B (business to business) arena is being made before calling salespeople in, that’s only because salespeople are so busy selling that they don’t give their customers a chance to buy.

According to the media, the now “well informed and Web enabled society of buyers” turn to the Web to research products and then buy them online. The shift, some reports indicate, will make salespeople less relevant. However, it turns out that the opposite is true and companies are hiring and training more salespeople than ever before.

What the Web has done is create a new set of expectations amongst customers.

higher expectations of sales peopleToday, customers expect much more from salespeople. They expect salespeople to have an expert’s view of their business, act as a manager of some crucial part of their process and be effective at protecting the customer’s interests within the sales organisation. They also expect salespeople to help them sift through what is rapidly becoming an information overload.

Whilst the Web has given buyers more choice, access to more alternatives and freedom, it has also flooded them with often useless and unqualified information. Smart customers are turning to salespeople to help them identify the right solutions. But there is more. The Web provides instant access to information and buyers expect salespeople to be equally responsive.

Those salespeople and companies that are not easily accessible, that take too long to respond or to deliver are going to find themselves at the back of the line, with the more agile, responsive and nibble footed salespeople and sales organisations taking the lion’s share of the business.

Sales forces that aren’t equipped to be mobile are going to find opportunities slipping away. And although there was a time when buyers would wait days or even weeks for a proposal or quotation, they now expect these in hours. Whilst they were prepared to wait weeks and months for delivery of their orders, that has been cut down to hours and days. The reality is simple. If companies argue that they can’t meet the apparently unrealistic expectations of their customers those same customers will move on, find suppliers who will deliver and give them the business.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

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