In most businesses, risk is a well-understood factor and usually equally well mitigated. Many companies have a risk register and if you are an insurance company then your risk appetite defines how you conduct your business. Yet there is one form of risk that lurks unseen in many organisations because it is not identified as such. It manifests itself in other terminology or is obscured by the way that those who have created the risks describe it initially.
A recent article by McKinsey was quoted on LinkedIn as saying: “There is no doubt the role of sales in successful organisations is changing. The tools needed to be successful are changing. The structure of successful sales teams is changing. The role of the customer and the collaboration required between buyer and seller is changing”.
Undoubtedly, all of the above is true and is already happening to some degree in most forward-looking organisations. Partly this is being driven by the age-old pressure for increasing revenues coming from senior managers keen to grow rapidly (although not always for the best reasons) but it is also a reaction to the way the decision-making power is shifting heavily in favour of the buyer who is now better informed than ever before. It is also fair, and painful, to say that many sales organisations have brought this on themselves by exhibiting and rewarding behaviours that are very short-term in their effect and which are not focused on bringing value to the customer. A perfect storm you might say, with added currents of big data fuelling the winds of change.
You’re probably thinking this is going to be about some “Groundhog Day” type of scenario where your attempt to close a sale keeps going round and round like clothes in a washing machine on permanent spin cycle. Of course, we’ve all had this type of situation to deal with at some time but this is not what the article is about.
Instead we’ll talk about the change from a sales cycle with a defined start and end to one where we are continuously engaged with the client and where one success forms the basis for the next, such that it becomes more of a closed loop than a linear journey from A to B. Why is this important or relevant?
There is a widespread debate at present about what business to business (B2B) solution selling might look like in a few years’ time and what the ramifications are for sales professionals operating in this field. The major trend underpinning this thinking is the shift of power away from the product or vendor salesperson to the customer, enabled by the vast amount of high-quality information readily available online or through a range of relevant discussion groups and forums. If this trend continues, the protagonists argue, then the traditional B2B sales role will disappear and be replaced by a more transactional approach. Therefore, mature sales professionals will need to re-invent themselves in order to survive, and those entering the job market now will need to acquire a whole new skill set that is still evolving. It sounds scary and it is. So, what can you do about it if you are currently riding high as a commissioned, target driven sales jock?