What is the purpose of a sales person?
A good question to ask yourself or your team is what is the purpose of a sales person? If you’re only thinking about your company then you might say the purpose is to drive revenue to the business. I wouldn’t suggest for a minute that this isn’t part of the answer, but if this is the only answer then my suggestion is your positive revenue outcomes may be short term.
The purpose of a sales person in 2018 is to add value at every stage of customer engagement to facilitate better results for your customer. If your sales person has good sales skills - as well as a mindset of helping their customer - then they are likely to work with engaged, loyal customers who become advocates. Focusing only on your own revenue goals will be detrimental in the medium to long term.
Sales has changed, and the order taker is becoming redundant. And the question is, have you or your company changed or are you still operating as you have always done. It’s a busy world out there and there’s a lot of noise to cut through. The real decision makers are not looking for new friends, they’re looking for value, and who can solve their problems.
So what are our customers looking for? They’re looking for experts who can help them, they’re looking for people who can cut to the chase and get to the root of the problem. They’re looking for consultants who they feel are working with the prospect’s best interests at heart.
How many of your reps can honestly say they’re working for the customer?
When you work for the customer you are focusing on their challenges, their issues and not on your need to hit your targets or to receive an incentive. Sales people need to build a long term relationship that will stick, it’s not a one-off transaction. The key elements to building relationships are trust, loyalty and working towards a situation where the customer is better off by having you in their business life.
Cian Mcloughlin, CEO of Trinity Perspectives who specialise in win/loss reviews, states the number one reason companies buy from particular companies is that the seller ‘educated, managed and shared their risks and partnered with them as the buyer’.
Perhaps a few decades ago the high performing sales person was the one that got the big deals over the line and then moved on. These days few companies can be successful on short term client relationships. Many products or services are subscription based, and with this the power has shifted from the seller to the buyer. The customer has the power to stop a relationship at any time, so the risk is all from the seller’s side.
Most of us have had business relationships where we felt that as soon as we signed a contract the relationship turned into a money making one for the supplier. Do you still think of this company in a negative light even if that sales person has left the business? The answer to that is usually a resounding ‘yes’. That is a big risk to any company.
To focus on the customer, change the mindset of yourself and your team, coach your team in this space, make sure your sales culture is based on successful outcomes for the company but not at the expense of the client.
5 Simple ways for a company to focus on adding value:
- Be ahead of the game in your industry, keep learning your product, service or industry better than your competitors
- Get very clear on the impact of what you are selling can have on your client. What are the areas of real strength, the weaknesses, and do you have great stories from your clients about how your company had a positive impact on your clients
- Give away content, tools and learnings when you engage with your customers, whether it’s your marketing or sales team. Educate and highlight opportunities for the company to make improvements and be genuine in this approach.
- Say no to the wrong customers and make a referral for someone else to look after them. You will build trust for life and they will appreciate having the risk of a disaster waiting to happen mitigated - and the bad reputation that would no doubt come as a result. The company you referred will also love you for it.
- Revisit the way you reward your sales team, often incentives are paid to sales people straight after deals are signed, but maybe you can look to incentivise your team based on longer term relationships. This would likely create a positive change in mindset as to how customers are looked after pre, during and post sales.
When sales people deal directly with clients it should be a simple formula of understanding the customers and looking to make their business better. If you can’t help or add tangible value, you have no business offering solutions.
With the advancement of technology and with information at their fingertips the buyer does not need to rely so heavily on a sales person so only the best sales people who are a few steps ahead of their customers will survive. The sales person that educates and adds value to the buyer will be in high demand. To maintain success, we all need to get better in how we can improve the outcomes for our clients.