The Internet, digital marketing, marketing automation, CRM, fundamental changes in business structure, and significantly higher customer expectations have made the traditional sales model virtually obsolete.
Traditional sales professionals were 2 parts personality and one part knowledge. Historically, product knowledge was unique to the company, therefore handled by internal training, and was the crown jewel of the sales force. The role of sales was ingratiate the buyer and communicate the features and functionality of a product to a comparatively less educated buyer.
Today’s buyers are cross-functional teams, empowered with access to timely and relevant product information. Consequently when a sales professional meets a buyer, the buyer has likely explored several competitive options and developed strong opinions about the products or services several companies offer.
Although these buyers are competent professionals, their opinions may have been arrived at without an appropriate contextual framework or a complete understanding of a company’s offerings. Without a well-trained sales force, armed with benchmark sales processes, tools and communication protocols, the buyer may never truly understand the value proposition of your product or service.
A Forrester Insight Study found that only 13% of executive buyers believe current sales professionals can clearly show that they understand the executive’s business issues and articulate a way to solve them.
The sales professional today interacts with a cross functional team of highly educated buyers (that may have conflicting objectives). The cross functional teams will • Conduct independent research and have developed opinions and biases concerning products and services prior to meeting with a sales professional • Ask more complex, multi-functional, questions • Make requests for additional custom assessments on products and services, extending the sales cycle • Demand customized information about how their businesses will be impacted by a product or service • Include key influencers (Senior Management), who the sales professional may never interface with
Because of the reasons discussed here-in, the sales function needs help if it wants to significantly influence and add value to a customers purchasing decision. They need processes, tools, training, and relevant real time content on a 24/7 basis.
Significant investments have been made in the front end of the sales funnel in Marketing Automation and CRM. Marketing Automation delivers a “sales ready lead” to the sales force and CRM provides management visibility into the opportunities available and sales activities underway. Similar investments have not been made in the sales function. Just like a chain though, the sales and marketing funnel is only as strong as its weakest link. Currently the sales function is the weakest link.
In order to be relevant to the empowered purchasing team, investments must be made in the sales funnel to create an enabled sales professional. An enabled sales professional is armed with the right information, for the right buyer, at the right time and place, and in the right format to move a sales opportunity forward. Enabling a sales force requires a strategic, continuous improvement, problem solving process that systematically uses best practices to convert a sales ready lead into a loyal customer.
Sales will always be a combination of art and science but the market place is currently driving it to more scientific processes and tools. Sales Enablement and Automation tools are are becoming available in the market place. Sales Enablement and Automation tools drive science into the sales function’s processes and tools. The question is not ” if you will invest in Sales Enablement and Automation tools” but “how much pain and lost opportunities are you willing to accept before you do”.
The path forward for the sales function is clear, The Enabled Salesforce, choose that path.