Archive for the 'Sales Evolution' Category


The Future of Faith in Business

Harvey Cox, TheologianHarvey Cox, a professor from Harvard University, presented a terrific talk on the future of faith. His speech to the Westminster Town Hall Forum, here in Minneapolis (hear the talk), followed the outline of his book of the same name and painted an optimistic picture for people of faith. One of his key points was that religion is changing and becoming a more personal experience, shifting away from strict dogma. People are searching out and embracing similarities between religions, drawing strength from those similarities and rejecting firm rules and hard boundaries.

These same trends are impacting businesses across the economy. No longer are employees or customers willing to accept the dogma or hard rules of the past. “That’s policy” doesn’t cut the mustard in dealing with issues when alternatives are as close as the Internet. The options available have never been greater…and neither have the opportunities.

Customers can shop anywhere. The Internet makes it possible. This ability is driving products and even services to commodity status. Only genuine, tailored, and unique solutions provide meaningful differentiation. Companies must create close relationships in order to identify and take advantage of those opportunities.

Linked HandsEmployees play a critical role in creating those relationships. They are as smart and capable as ever, loyal and wanting to make a difference for their companies. Modern technology makes it possible for teammates throughout an organization to connect and discover new ways to provide value for their customers. As leaders, it’s up to us to create the environment where these connections can be made and creativity unleashed. When we do, good things happen. When we don’t, the same technology that creates opportunities also makes it possible for our employees to find new places to work.

It’s an exciting time to be a business leader. These trends are making companies more honest and responsive to their stakeholders. Employees in these companies are more engaged and productive than ever before. The solutions these teams are creating are better and more effective for customers than ever before. Great companies are riding these trends.

Are you?


Outsourcing Sales and Building Relationships

The nature of the selling process is going through another revolution, where relationships and goal alignment – not product knowledge – will be critical success factors for sales professionals. The ability to steer a purchase discussion away from pricing on a particular item and towards performance against meaningful goals will mean the difference between making a price-dependent, commodity sale, and developing a stable and profitable customer base.

Outsourcing is also affecting the nature of this revolution, as companies find outside specialists deliver their non-core requirements. Increasingly, Sales and Marketing are becoming a part of that mix – especially in niche markets or alternative market segments. This model is going beyond the traditional Manufacturer’s Representative or distributor network. It’s moving up the chain to the strategic and management functions within the company.

It’s certainly an interesting proposition: the Sales and Marketing functions are usually not core competencies for most companies, but have rarely been thought of in an outsourcing light. Customer relationships and the ability to control the company’s brand(s) trumped any cost or efficiency considerations.

The economic crisis has changed that equation. The latest cost pressures have caused companies to reconsider everything they do and how it gets done. That includes outsourcing the execution of Sales and Marketing.

On one plane, this makes perfect sense. If your company does not have high-level skills within your organization, outsource the function. Outsourcing can save money (as you only buy the services needed), but more importantly, it can save time and be more effective than trying to build the skills in-house. Never before has so much talent been available with tailored solutions to address particular Sales and Marketing situations. Even modest sized companies can hire world-class talent to drive these functions.

Of course, outsourcing means someone else will be on the front line with your prospects. A clear plan for managing those relationships must be a clear part of the outsourcing initiative. Those plans should include regular business reviews with key customers, processes to measure the success of all initiatives, and clear correction mechanisms for any significant deviations from the plan. This will require creative, non-traditional thinking to make any solution a success.

Outsourcing Sales and Marketing may be a terrific option for your operation, lowering costs, increasing effectiveness, and making world-class talent available to your organization. These gains can be realized without losing customer relationships, but it requires careful thought and deliberate nurturing of the critical parts of your marketplace!


New Year and New Promise!!

As we come to the end of the year, let’s try to look at the world through lenses of abundance. It’s an amazing time of opportunity.


It’s very surprising to me to see the number of people looking through a scarcity prism. They are frozen in place, paralyzed by fear over the present turmoil or confused by the many threats they see. In either case, they truly do not know what to do. Unfortunately, these are the majority of folks I meet these days.


Then there’s the group wearing the abundance glasses. These are the people who see the opportunity in these interesting times. They understand that their cash can buy 40%-60% more than it could even six months ago. They look at the talent markets and find people excited to join forward-looking organizations at wage levels below market rates. They see markets that are underserved and are positioning themselves for the future. When the economy rebounds (as it inevitably will), they will have leapfrogged their competition and set a new bar for performance and responsiveness.


It’s a GREAT time to innovate and make prudent investments! The opportunities abound, especially in mature markets with frozen competitors. It’s an opportunity to redefine markets, become closer to key customers, and deliver in a way that leaves the competition wondering what happened.


Let’s make it a terrific New Year, filled with hope and abundance!


Financial Crisis Drives the Sales Revolution

The current financial crisis is accelerating the sales revolution. All performance is under stress in this environment, as the news from Wall Street amplifies risks and opportunities at work in the marketplace. The depth of the turmoil has effectively eliminated any possibility of “muddling through” until a recovery takes hold. There will be definite winners and losers that emerge.

Sales performance will play a huge role in who wins and who loses. With cash flow and availability more critical than ever, the ability to sustain effective sales performance in the coming months can provide the winning edge in the marketplace. Relationships will be key, as clients and customers look for suppliers who can help them find a path through these times. Are you ready (and are you able) to align with, help, and calm your customers?

The Trusted Advisor role falls short in this new context. Easing pain is not the most effective strategy for growing relationships during uncertainty. Aligning goals and coordinating actions as a Co-Conspirator will build the deep trust and lasting relationships and benefits that will help organizations thrive during this time. Very few organizations are strong enough to succeed by themselves. Alignment with and support of their Co-Conspirators will make the difference between winning and losing.

Are you ready to be genuinely helpful and build success for your customers? Only then will you find the long-term success you want for yourself.


Sales Revolution! Co-Conspiracy!

The Sales profession is going through another major transition.


Forty years ago, salespeople were professional visitors. They followed a pre-determined route, collecting orders from customers. Sales main responsibility was to make sure customers knew what products were available.


At some point, the concept of features and benefits was introduced. The salesperson’s job changed to that of educator: educating customers about features and benefits so that they could make decisions about the best products for them.


Aggressive application of the features and benefits concept pushed the salesperson into the role of “Trusted Advisor”. In this role, the salesperson probed to discover unmet needs the customer may have. “What keeps you up at night?” became a standard question; with the theory that once a need is discovered and matched with a benefit, a sale is made.


Now, sales is transitioning again. This time the salesperson fills the role of “Co-Conspirator”, requiring a broader approach to the selling relationship. In this evolution, the salesperson and customer engage in a relationship where the objective is to align as many shared goals as possible in order to make the salesperson and the customer both more effective.


Cutting edge salespeople understand this approach and use it to marginalize their challengers and minimize price competition. Transforming transactions to encounters is something these people have been doing for years. Now, a combination of factors makes this more and more possible for broader-based consumer markets.


What are your experiences with these trends?



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July 2018
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