Tom Schoenfelder 2017-10-03 01:59:19
IN A WORLD OF DATA, THE GIFT OF BLARNEY IS NO LONGER ENOUGH To say that the business environment is growing more complex for most companies would be understating the obvious. The impact of growing complexity is most evident in the world of sales. There was a time when the sales professional, largely by filling the room with personality, could win most deals through a persuasive presentation of features and benefits. Tracking with today’s realities, customers have become much more sophisticated in conducting research, identifying their available options and vetting and selecting vendors and partners. However, despite new techniques to become better informed during the buying process, customers still depend heavily on sales professionals for help navigating their increasingly complex buying decisions. Today’s customers expect unique value, meaningful business impact and measurable ROI from vendor partnerships. Success often hinges on the sales professional’s ability to package solutions and convey value that addresses these needs. In short, today’s successful sales professional has evolved from charismatic persuader to knowledge broker and trusted advisor. To thrive in today’s environment, sales professionals must be business consultants and partners who convey a deep knowledge of the needs of the client organization, competitor activity and consumer trends. They need to understand how their product fits into the client’s strategic plans, addresses strategic issues and helps the client organization hone its competitive advantage. At the same time, certain traditional aspects of the sales personality continue to bring value. Sales leaders still need representatives who can network for connections, build rapport, establish credibility and trust, ask questions, tailor communication to suit the audience, and then use personal impact to promote, in a persuasive and confident manner, solutions that are anchored in industry and functional expertise. All that sounds complicated. And it is. Hiring managers, whether running a small agency or working as part of a sales organization within a large corporation, are likely wondering, “How do we get there?” NEW SALES MODELS Of course, each industry, company, market, etc. will require differing levels of sophistication from sales professionals. However, it is becoming quite clear that traditional “hunter” and “farmer” characteristics, while still very often necessary, are woefully insufficient in current business realities. Leveraging insights from extensive research and practice, we have identified six competency-based sales success models that scientifically link personal attributes, behavioral patterns and competencies with performance across differing levels of sales complexity. Job models are built from mixtures of performance competencies that have been identified, through scientific verification, to be critical success factors. The closer a job applicant matches the model, the more likely that person will perform well in the position. 1.NEW BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT – This model is most similar to the traditional “hunter” role, in that the salesperson is expected to bring in new accounts through some combination of professional networking, cold-calling, and following up on leads. Negotiating acumen is important and so is persisting to close business. 2.ACCOUNT DEVELOPMENT – This model is most similar to the traditional “farmer” approach, as success is often based on relationship management and seeking new business through referrals and introductions. Top account developers collect and leverage information obtained through formal and informal communication channels and power relationships within the cient company. 3.ACCOUNT SERVICE SPECIALIST – This model is most effective for roles in which up-selling and cross-selling to existing accounts is the primary method of revenue generation. The person in this type of position should be adept at identifying needs, offering information and building sales though trust established by strong customer service. 4.CONSULTATIVE SELLING – In this model, the sales professional frames the sale to customers as a business partnership and works collaboratively on solutions. This approach is a more recent trend that developed in response to the information-age sales environment discussed above. Top performers should be able to leverage the relationship to ask probing questions and to systematically uncover root causes of business issues and then take ownership of whatever solution is applied. 5.STRATEGIC SELLING – This may be the model that works best in today’s business climate, and it requires being what we call a knowledge broker. Strategic salespeople not only must have a deep understanding of products, industries, markets and clients’ business practices, but they must also bring new insights and challenge assumptions and conventional approaches. In short, they are expected to manifest competencies that are reflective of organization-wide, conceptual, big-picture thinking. 6.TECHNICAL SALES – This model is the purview of the subject-matter expert who can generate sales by leveraging deep, industry-specific knowledge and technical expertise that few others possess in order to develop business solutions. The emphasis for this type of sales position is on analytical ability, learning agility and business acumen. Those who specialize in technical sales might partner with a more traditional “closer” to finalize an agreement with a client. A NEW SALES PARADIGM Role boundaries and expectations that once dominated thinking in the world of sales are no longer valid. Buyers can gather detailed information about products and vendor companies, read reviews, study alternatives, and even use software and spreadsheets to eyeball complex data at a glance. That is, they have bypassed the features-and-benefits person. Nowadays, sales professionals must do a deep dive into a client organization’s needs (possibly even uncovering issues the client organization itself does not recognize), provide insight into the buyer’s industry, and stay on top of market trends. The complexity of the current business environment blurs roles and organizational boundaries, necessitating that sellers and buyers collaborate more extensively than ever to navigate intricacies and achieve complementary goals. Today’s successful sales professional will also have to convey business value, not through charismatic persuasiveness but through compelling and tangible ROI evidence. Hiring managers should be looking for knowledge brokers who bring insight and wisdom to the customer as well as who differentiate themselves by becoming true strategic partners for their clients. WHEN AND WHERE Thomas Schoenfelder, Ph.D. is senior vice president at Caliper Corporation. His session, “The Evolving World of Sales: From Charismatic Influencer to Knowledge Broker,” runs Sunday, Nov. 12 from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
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