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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

Industry Experience and Product Knowledge aren’t enough

May 30, 2012 in Business Acumen, Education in Sales, Recruitment & Sales Recruitment, Sales Consulting, Sales Culture, Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Leadership, Sales Management, Sales Strategy

As much as people want Sales to be considered a science the reality is that Sales has always combined a collection of facts with human judgments (or estimates). What this means is that there is no analytic approach that can single-handedly guarantee sales success. Result – Sales is likely to always be a mixture of art and science. So how do you sure up your success to gain that competitive edge?

For the last few decades when transactional, product-pushing sales was all that mattered, most sales leaders justifiably had confidence in their judgment to employ salespeople with “industry experience” and excellent product knowledge. This worked for a while, when products could be easily distinguished from each other. However, the resulting impact of this ‘industry experience’ approach was that industries ended up recycling the same old people with the same old ideas and the same old results.

Today, with products looking exactly like each other and organisations left with ‘Me2′ salespeople recycling through their particular industries, there is not much left to differentiate one company from the next. What does any self respecting sales leader look for as an advantage and what do they need to measure to make sure they are getting that competitive edge?

only the right formula will yield results

only the right formula will yield results

Many of these sales leaders now confess to being less certain that industry experience and articulate salespeople are the right formula. That’s hardly surprising. Sales management has been perfecting the product knowledge playbook for decades. Whilst some new sales techniques were introduced (e.g. consultative selling, relationship-based selling and networking) in the main, salespeople have (and are still) doing the same things to the same markets as they have for decades, with little change in their approach and yet, with diminishing return on sales effort.

What is the solution then? What many sales leaders and sales managers have come to recognise is that simply employing articulate salespeople with industry experience and product knowledge, isn’t enough. Providing product-knowledge training alone only perpetuates old habits and leads to further anxiety when price becomes the single negotiable item.

This new generation of sales leaders has come to recognise that sales training without a sales strategy to drive it, won’t sustain focus, or drive improved sales results.

They also realise that sales training, beside the prerequisite soft skills, has to address the Knowledge Diamond – a four-dimensional knowledge base:

  1. knowledge of the customer
  2. knowledge of the market, competitors and industry
  3. knowledge of the products, services and their application across multi dimensions such a business case, environment, OH&S, distribution, etc. – not just product efficacy in itself
  4. knowledge of the organisations strategy, vision, purpose, core message and value proposition

If the sales force doesn’t have a complete understanding of all four knowledge dimensions, and more importantly, is unable to use this knowledge in practical ways to support customers and prospects and their achievement of business results, it is unlikely that sales will do more than stumble along into oblivion.

On the other hand, the converse is equally true. When sales forces have the knowledge and know how to use it to help their customers, when the efforts of sales are focused and driven by a sound sales strategy that has clear purpose and goals; sales ramp up regardless of competitive intensity.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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

What’s influencing your customers’ buying decisions?

May 24, 2012 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Brain Science, Communication, Customer Service, Education in Sales, Neuroscience, Sales Psychology, Sales Results, Sales Strategy, Strategy

Product demand and brand scores are down and the reasons are tough to manage. There are a multitude of factors influencing buyers, some are within our control and many are not. Factors such as bad experiences with retailers and intermediaries, mediocre service levels, the increasing number of competitors with similar products and brands, cheaper pricing are just some of the causes. The tricky global situation is also creating a more conservative spending climate where saving is now the prevailing consumer mindset.

With all of this how do we influence our customers so that they want to buy from us? How do we successfully compete for their time and attention?

brain prioritising information

brain prioritising information

To try to understand what influences people it helps to understand how the brain prioritises information and how that influences behaviour. The brain is continuously receiving enormous amounts of information via our five senses and cannot process all this information consciously so much of the information is sent to the subconscious for storage and automatic retrieval.

However to function effectively the brain needs to prioritise information so it can make decisions about what it needs to focus on at any given time. The human brain is designed to pay conscious attention to four key areas and they are organised in order of priority:

1. Risk
2. Important
3. Pleasurable
4. Engaging

The conscious brain will pay immediate attention if something is a Risk or dangerous, this overrides everything and prioritises the actions of the person concerned. Given the current economic climate perhaps many people are now prioritising Risk as their many influencing factor. Moving to a more cautious approach they are scrutinising the ethics, viability, etc. of organisations.

Given there is very little differentiation between comparative products themselves and in the absence of other value added differentiators Price becomes Important to buyers.

Determining what Buyers or Customers see as a Risk and Important is critical for any business because this is where our brains focus. If the areas of danger and importance can be satisfied then we are in a position to focus on Pleasurable and Engaging.

So what exactly is influencing your customers and prospects?

The digital revolution and the explosion of social media have profoundly changed what influences customers as they undertake their purchasing decision journey. When considering products and services, consumers now read online reviews, compare prices and have easy access to literally hundreds of alternative sources of supply. This information is constantly interacting with our brains and causing us to reprioritise our Conscious Brain’s priority ranking system.

Once face-to-face with salespeople, customers are putting themselves in a strong position to drive hard bargains. Many of their Conscious Brains are being programmed by this information to look for bargains. And after the purchase they become reviewers themselves – demanding ongoing relationships with suppliers who they pressurize for added attention, incremental service and support levels, fundamentally changing the scope of the primary activities in a value chain.

What is surprising is that although sales leaders have access to terabytes of data about buyer behaviour many still can’t answer the fundamental question: “How exactly are customers and prospects being influenced and what is a priority to them?

How do you get your buyers’ attention?

how to get your product to stand out in the sales jungle

how to get your product to stand out in the sales jungle

One way to change this stereo-typical thinking is recognising that social media can be harnessed as a sales tool, rather than a sales enemy.

One of our clients – a global fast moving consumer goods producer – relied heavily on traditional marketing as its push, and traditional sales as its pull through strategy. Awareness of social media resulted in a shift from above-the-line television and newspaper advertising, which had become white noise and no longer a priority to their buyers Conscious Brains, to Internet-based social interactions with its consumers where interactions were much more important, delightful or interesting. This organisation then coupled this social media interaction with in-store promotion and support to the retail channel by their salespeople.

Sales no longer attempted to sell product. Once listed (at head office level), sales assisted store managers to determine the most effective in-store locations, shelf-space and promotions (in other words – sales focused on providing priority solutions, rather than just products). This change in mind-set and activity resulted in an increase in buyer spend, in spite of the premium prices charged by this FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) company.

Beyond direct value/volume measures, there is a simple three-step approach that should be considered when developing the sales strategy that drives sales measures:

• Measure the impact of sales effort on “consciousshare of mind” of customers and prospects
• Measure the prospects’ awareness of the organisation’s value proposition – is it a priority to your buyers
• Measure the call-back that salespeople have had with specific prospects

A simple tele-research campaign with well constructed questions will soon tell sales management how well the sales force has managed these three activities and managed to capture our client’s conscious brain’s share of mind – either of the organisations current customer base or prospects in a territory.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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

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