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What Role Do Your Sales Professionals Play


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What Role Do Your Sales Professionals Play

  1. 1. Leading printing executives into the future What Role Do Your Sales Professionals Play? By Jerry Scher Published: February 25, 2013 I recently attended and spoke at the Association of Marketing Service Providers (AMSP) winter conference and a great deal of time was spent discussing the need for a new generation of sales professionals. Industry executives are noticeably struggling with the challenge of re-defining what these folks look like and where to find them. Companies in a multitude of industries are confronting this challenge because there are numerous forces at play. In fact we are experiencing a “Perfect Storm” when it comes to attracting, recruiting, hiring and coaching our next generation of sales professionals. As buying/purchasing behavior is changing so is the role of the sales professional. In many ways technology has leveled the playing field when it comes to making purchasing decisions. Buyers have access to so much more information today; long before they speak to a sales person. In the past the sales person was the source of information regarding their products and processes but in order to remain relevant in the future, they must play a very different role . And while transactional business will continue as products and services are commoditized, most of those purchases can be automated through technology and the sales person role (and cost) can be eliminated or at least minimized. There has been a great deal of discussion about the book “The Challenger Sale” by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson because of the research they conducted and the insights they provided. The authors identified five different types of sales people: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. The Hard Worker The Relationship Builder The Lone Wolf The Reactive Problem Solver The Challenger As a result of their research they identified “The Challenger” sales person far and away the most successful of the group and acknowledged three distinct skills the Challengers possess; 1. The ability to teach to enable clients to view new and innovative approaches 2. The ability to tailor solutions based on a clients’ values system 3. The ability to take control of the dialogue and decision making process which requires an understanding of the financial impact of a decision
  2. 2. To further this discussion I will point to a book published in 1995 – High Performance Sales Organizations where the authors stated that they “expect a salesperson to be a professional businessperson who happens to be involved in selling.” For years we have been saying that successful sales professionals must be consultative rather than transactional and that involves a process of assisting their clients in achieving their strategic goals. And in many cases this requires the ability to challenge a client’s status quo. Not an easy task for run of the mill transactional sellers. More recently (2011) in his book “That Used to Be Us” Thomas Friedman discussed what employers are (and will be) looking for in current and future employees based on the need for the United States to compete in this global economy. His list included: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Strong communication skills Desire to collaborate as part of a team Ability to adapt to a continually changing business environment Open-mindedness and a strong desire to learn and improve Creativity and critical thinking Capacity to innovate – reinvent solutions Aptitude to challenge the status quo before your competitor does And finally in a recent interview, Bill Gates talked about how we can dramatically improve education by identifying and selecting better teachers (performance optimization through better hiring). Through his foundation they have evidently determined that the “best teachers” are the ones that are capable of engaging their students in thought provoking dialogue and not just presenting the information within the curriculum of study. The good ones are capable of creating an environment that fosters creative and critical thinking. Does all of this sound familiar? I believe that as we continue to transform our businesses, especially in the communications industry, sales professionals must be more consultative, incorporating a Socratic approach to not only challenging their clients but to seek innovative strategies and solutions. They must also be able to educate/teach their clients so they can achieve their stated and unstated strategic goals. So how can we accomplish this? Well, it begins by carefully defining the job in terms of both Eligibility and Suitability. Eligibility referring to the specific criteria (i.e. past experience, industry knowledge, education, technological competence, current client relationships) that you pre-define as required for employment consideration. Suitability referring to the work preferences, behavioral traits and competencies that are recognized as critical to success with a list that includes motivation, interpersonal skills, decision-making, negotiation, strategic judgment, innovative persistence and a willingness to take initiative. Sales professionals must be able to engage at multiple levels within a client’s organization, have an understanding of organizational politics and how decisions are made and by whom. They must feel comfortable in influencing/persuading others to their point of view while at the same time be accomplished active listeners with an ability to ask thoughtful questions. In other words engage their clients/prospects in meaningful dialogue, not only to diagnose problems and opportunities but to control the process and move it forward assertively.
  3. 3. Great sales people are capable orchestrators with the ability to define the challenges and coordinate the necessary resources to address those challenges. They are good planners and are well organized. So how difficult is it to determine if someone is suitable for this newly defined role? Well it's a lot easier to determine that they don’t possess these qualities after we hire them; which obviously doesn’t work that well. In fact it's far too costly to determine that after they're on board. Traditionally we attempt to make that assessment through a series of interviews; but too frequently those interviews are conducted poorly. So to improve our success rate we have to develop a systematic approach to interviewing as well as training those responsible for conducting those interviews. There are basic interview skills that can be taught and practiced. And if you research the subject of interviewing, you will find that there is greater focus on preparing the interviewee than the interviewer. And finally, we must research the range of behavioral assessment tools that are available and select one that provides you with the insights you are looking for when considering candidates for hire (or internal promotions). Technological advances that have taken place in the employment assessment field have certainly made these tools far more effective in predicting behavior related to specific job requirements as well as making them easier to administer and far more cost effective. If you would like more information about transitioning your sales team read our whitepaper The Guide to Transitioning Your Team to Be Sustainable Resources. Jerry Scher has been engaged in the graphic communication industry for over 35 years, Jerry's primary goal - make those around him more successful.
  4. 4. PEOPLE. PERFORMANCE. PROFITABILITY. About Peak Focus, LLC People. Performance. Profitability. Peak Focus gives you the tools to grow, develop and strengthen your team. With a mix of resources that we’ve created ourselves, as well as several powerful tools we’ve carefully assessed and believe in, we combine our passion and experience to guide companies and individuals toward optimized performance. Select your team members with confidence, help your key players develop their soft skills, and learn how to coach your entire team more effectively by engaging the experts at Peak Focus. For more information and access to free resources, please visit our website at Engage With Us Free tools, resources & updates LIKE us on Facebook Check out our blog Follow us on Twitter Follow us on LinkedIn About What They Think? WhatTheyThink is the printing and publishing industry’s leading media organization; offering a wide range of publications delivering unbiased, real-time market intelligence, industry news, economic and trend analysis, peer-to-peer communication, and special reports on emerging technology and critical events. WhatTheyThink also hosts webinars and live events that are timely and relevant o today’s busy industry executives along with consulting and speaker services that leverage a talented pool of writers and industry analysts. Peak Focus LLC © 2008-2013 • All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.