Research shows buyers are now anywhere from 55 to 66 percent of the way through their buying process before engaging directly with a salesperson. Is the role of the salesperson therefore forever diminished and the skills needed to execute in this role equally so?
Absolutely not. The role of the salesperson has actually become more critical and the skills needed to progress a sale have rapidly increased. Previously the salesperson played a role in the early part of the sales process, building an understanding of the buyer’s needs, while at the same time building a rapport with them through multiple contacts. The buyer no longer needs or sees value in this as a result of the vast tools at their disposal to conduct a discovery process on their own. Indeed, tools they see as a way of conducting a more “pure” or “unbiased” approach, because the salesperson is not present to directly influence the outcome.
If a buyer is able to access information from third parties or from your marketing group and build up an idea of what they want, it becomes more incumbent on the salesperson, when they do get the opportunity to engage directly with them, to have the ability to go deep, fast, with that buyer. This is exactly why the role of the salesperson has become more critical and highly skilled.
The level of business acumen that a salesperson now needs has increased exponentially, because in order to go deep they need to understand the business of their buyer; they need to understand what is happening in their segment, in their broader market, as well as the strategic objectives of the buyer’s organization.
Furthermore, to demonstrate capability and business acumen in the social selling era, salespeople need to be able to form and present their thoughts in a social-friendly capacity. After all, if you say the wrong thing online, it’s almost impossible to retract due to the permanency of the record. They need time to reflect and think about the needs of their customers which detracts focus from active selling. Salespeople today need to work proactively with marketing to help with content and editorial that develops themselves as a brand at the frontline of the business, whereby they communicate with their own voice but have confidence in delivering the right message.
Sales professionals need to also engage marketing to gather any information about what the buyer has taken an interest in to date or requested further collateral around through data analytics and insights. This will enable the salesperson to build a composite picture of where the buyer is in the buying process and what is of most importance to them at this juncture.
Because if as a salesperson you engage with a buyer who is 60 percent through their buying process and begin by asking questions about things that have already been covered, or you are misaligned with where they are in their process, you are going to lose that opportunity―not to mention your credibility.
But if you can go deep quickly and you can actually talk to them about the business issues and demonstrate you have something of value to bring to that conversation, you open up the opportunity to move it forward. And that requires increased business acumen and solid research skills, both of which have not always been top priorities for many salespeople.
Looking forward by five to ten years, it’s reasonable to say that 50 percent of salespeople will likely become redundant due to inability to possess business acumen, align with marketing departments and develop their own marketing skill set. The roles and responsibilities of sales and marketing professionals will continue to merge as social selling takes off, potentially building a hybrid role.
Are you equipped for success?