The 5 things you need to know to be super successful in Sales
We have spent the last few weeks now talking about trends and skilling in functions like Marketing, Digital Marketing, Finance, Technology. Now for the most interesting of them all, Sales/Business Development.
One might think, what could possibly have changed in Sales? Once a good salesperson, always a good salesperson. Isn’t that true? Well, that is true, Sales people never really lose their gift. But in order to compete well in the hyper-competitive world of Sales, they do need to freshen up their skills.
Here below are 5 trends that are changing or have changed the way Sales is done:
1. From Product to Solutions to a Consultative Mindset:
Gone are the days when Sales was all about knowing your own product and making sure your potential client knew it too, and in fact, was never able to forget it thanks to the repeated follow-ups from you. With an increase in service businesses, especially led out of software, in the 80s and 90s, it became important to know your potential client’s problems and offer your product as a solution that would help solve that problem. This meant needing to listen to your clients far more than talking to or at them, and as a salesperson, understanding the applications of your product or service really well. Of late, that has shifted to a more consultative approach, where it means not only offering your product as a solution but also throwing in free consultations for the client - and not necessarily in this order. This means understanding the bigger picture, creating trust and building a relationship with the client, and having the patience to stick it out and wait for the day when you hit the jackpot i.e. you make not just one sale but get an account that will continue to reap dividends for a long time and in high volume.
Of course all three of the above methods i.e. Product, Solutions and Consultative selling, are still used, but the first one is far far less. There may be a good mix of Solution selling and Consultative selling still being used, subject to the product/service, industry and even target audience profile. Example, for a smaller company, your company may do solution selling, but for an Enterprise, for the same product, they would adopt the consultative approach.
Depending on what your career goals are, you should build the right skills and more importantly, the right temperament for the selling that works best for you.
2. Complexity in Selling:
With the products and services of today harnessing the power of the internet and digital technologies, the sales mantra has transformed from ‘what you see is what you get’ to ‘what you visualise is what you get’. And good salespeople need to be able to help potential clients visualise how they can use these products along with how their organisations will be more efficient, how their costs will be lower, and indeed, how their lives will be better. This is called ‘Concept selling’ and is arguably a few degrees more difficult than simple product selling. It needs the salesperson to know their product/service and its applications, use cases, examples, visualisations, demos as well as how all of these compare to competitors and existing technology, to be able to sell. A person returning to work would be well-served to keep this in mind and build and demonstrate their resourcefulness to their employers from the get go
3. The Rise of Inside Sales:
Inside Sales is a form of remote sales used in multiple scenarios. For those products/services where the purchase decision needs information more than relationship building, or for start-ups looking to optimise their costs and use the first sales touch-point only to set up meetings with the right stakeholders, a remote team of Inside Sales professionals works for both. However, whatever be the reason that companies want to hire an Inside Sales team, the bottomline is that these create very useful opportunities for women and other professionals who want to do interesting work in the domain of sales while also being able to balance it with other life priorities. If you are someone looking to return to work in Sales but cannot get back to field sales, invest in building yourself as an Inside Sales professional which means familiarity with remote tools, being able to work-from-home with discipline and most of all, selling yourself as one.
4. Digital as a tool and an edge:
Sales today is a lot more than selling.
Research: Due to all of the factors above i.e. a Solutions or a Consultative approach, the arrival of Concept selling, and the rise of high-knowledge professionals who can give you the right solutions for your problems, it is as much about research that happens even before the first contact, as it is about the actual selling.
Today via Research, a salesperson is expected to understand the background and existing competitive context for a company, unearth who the key decision maker is, and what the hook to attract their attention might be, and be current enough to use recent happenings and events to their advantage while doing the selling. This needs a decent degree of familiarity with research tools and techniques on the internet, and most of all a mindset of understanding the important role it can play in helping them close the deal.
Channels: Equally important is the channel through which you approach your target. Gone are the days when you could just land up, and even cold calling doesn’t work everywhere. Today if your potential client is active on LinkedIn, Twitter or Whatsapp, you need to be able to leverage that to your advantage. A familiarity with new-age communication tools is essential.
Content Marketing: While the marketing team will do a majority of the content marketing to ensure the sales team gets qualified leads, don’t underestimate the difference understanding and using those same levers can make for you as a salesperson. Imagine that if instead of a regular follow-up, you were to send the latest article from an industry research body that helps create relevance for your product, wouldn’t that be much more powerful? Even if you don’t yourself create the material that goes out to potential clients, but are able to give insights from the ground to your marketing team, your inputs and expertise will be highly valued.
Basically ensure that you are familiar with digital tools and technology while returning to work. They can be your biggest enablers
5. The importance of Analytics:
With everything and everybody getting more evidence-based, it is important that you also change your thinking and start paying attention to trends and patterns. As a salesperson, you will most often be at the receiving end of analytics, but you are also in the unique position to identify patterns that others may not be able to. For example, you may realise that your emails get the most favorable open rates when you follow-up it up with a phone call. Or you may be in the best position to notice how response changes with one script over another. You would be well-served to keep an eye out for these things, and feed them back to the Analytics team. After all, you are the company’s eyes and ears at the frontline and what you say will always carry immense weight
How should you skill-up for a thriving career in sales?
And now we come to the most important part, which is how you should go about preparing yourself for returning to work in the field of Sales. Here we will guide you to a few tried and tested techniques to enhance your knowledge. You must do your own research though which not only includes online search but also asking around and tuning into word of mouth recommendations for the best options to skill-up.
1# Read up: On your industry, function, country of work, etc to understand what has changed and where the opportunities are. For technology sales professionals, it would be useful information to know that IBM is betting big on its cloud services in India, as you know there would be a surge in demand for people who can sell it.
2# Follow experts: Start following industry leaders on social media, listen to their interviews and TedTalks - these are the thought leaders and visionaries of your space and nothing spells the future better than what they have to say. Plus it gives you valuable material to pepper your conversation with and makes you appear current - something that will stand you in good stead when returning to work.
3# Network: Meet your peers, bosses, industry professionals through industry-wide events as often as you can to know what is happening, but more importantly to refresh your connects.
4# Digitally equip yourself: Whether in social selling and associated tools, or various B2B software - CRMs, Analytics, Email Marketing tools, etc, or in knowing your way around MS Excel and Powerpoint, invest some time and effort into these
5# Learn about new-age products/services: One of the best chances of returning to work could be at a start-up and if you want to maximise the potential to get hired there or even simply improve your concept selling ability, try and understand what new products, apps and services are in the market today and understand their applications and features. Your hunger and dedication will appeal to every company, and your knowledge will give you an edge
And never give up on your sales mindset - your target orientation and your killer instinct. Not everyone can do sales or business development, and if you can, that itself sets you apart. The good thing is this function is evergreen and there is always demand. You just need to brush yourself up a tad bit to be fighting fit. And having said that, know that skilling is a continuous process and will be always ON. In the mean-time, get hands-on experience by applying for jobs. They could be part-time jobs to begin with, to get you into the groove and back into the game.
Here we are and now you know which 5 trends all Salespeople should know about. We hope you found it useful, and that it propelled you to take your first step towards returning to work.
We at FlexiBees have placed such talented career returners like you in sales and business development jobs. Whether you are interested in Inside Sales, Field Sales or a mix, want to work in the industry of your choice like Education, Software, Travel or F&B, we are committed to creating meaningful options for you. Go to https://jobseeker.flexibees.com/ and register with us, so we can reach out to you when we get any requirements that match your skills.