The way companies sell to their customers has changed dramatically in recent years, and strong networking skills, sales technique, and product knowledge are no longer enough to guarantee success. Technologies such as Salesforce, Oracle, and SAP require new sales competencies to empower salespeople to take full advantage of the enhanced visibility and insight these solutions offer.
It’s hard to believe that salespeople once sold products and services by knocking on doors or cold calling. Today’s consumers are no longer willing to open their doors or their phone lines to strangers, and even email boxes come with spam filters to weed out unsolicited messages. While in many ways, the world is a much more interconnected place, breaking through the clutter and earning the trust of potential customers is harder than ever.
Yet while salespeople face new challenges, they also enjoy new advantages. Sales technologies such as CRMs, marketing automation, content management, and predictive analytics enable sales teams to build and maintain incredibly detailed profiles of their customers and prospects, and reach them with highly targeted and relevant sales information.
Tapping into this opportunity requires new sales competencies that reflect the changing world of both consumer and business-to-business sales. HRSG recently updated its sales competency dictionary with three competencies designed to help salespeople manage the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that digital, technology-driven sales processes have created.
Delivering the personal touch
In recent years, CRM, email marketing platforms, and marketing automation platforms have made it possible for salespeople to reach far more prospects than ever before. But quantity and quality don’t always go hand in hand, which is one reason why account-based marketing (ABM) is enjoying a resurgence. ABM requires the sales team to develop an extensive understanding of each prospective customer and treat them as a “market of one” instead of segmenting the market more broadly. According to a State of Account-Based Marketing survey conducted by SiriusDecisions, 92 percent of companies recognize the value of adopting an ABM approach.
ABM requires salespeople to take a different approach to the sale—more personal, more collaborative, more diligent, more strategic, and more long-term. Account management requires both an ability to evaluate a prospect’s potential to become a profitable long-term, satisfied customer and a willingness to understand and identfiy with the unique challenges and realities the prospect faces. It’s a time- and labor-intensive process, but it gets results: according to a recent ABM benchmark report, 60 percent of companies that have used ABM for at least a year reported revenue increases of at least 10 percent, and nearly one in five (19 percent) saw increases of 30 percent or more.
NEW SALES COMPETENCY >> Account Management: Building long term, value-based relationships with large accounts, penetrating them for further business, and maximizing the revenue they generate while reducing the time and costs in managing them.
Optimizing the process
As sales becomes a more technical and complex discipline, being able to identify and implement innovations that save time and improve results is a critical competency. With every passing year, salespeople are finding it increasingly difficult to carve out enough sell time. According to a 2014 CSO Insights study, in 1998, salespeople were able to spend nearly half of their time (47 percent) actually selling. In 2014, that had dwindled to 37 percent, with salespeople now spending the majority of their time performing administrative and account-management duties. To succeed at sales, salespeople need to develop their ability to follow a tested, repeatable process and continually identify innovations that improve outcomes for both the company and its customers.
NEW SALES COMPETENCY >> Consultative Selling Process: Understanding and applying organizational sales process effectively.
Creating ongoing value for customers
While the product-focused selling method prevalent in the 60s and 70s was centered on convincing the customer of a product’s superiority, value-focused selling looks at how a company’s products and expertise can deliver tangible and lasting value. In this model, the product is only half the equation: the other half is made up of the company’s ability to work in close partnership with the customer to anticipate and support their evolving needs. Delivering customer value requires salespeople to define success not in terms of sales made, but in terms of value delivered.
This model may seem uncharacteristically altruistic, but it’s also profitable. By finding ways to create value for customers, salespeople can significantly reduce acquisition costs and boost revenue. According to a 2000 study by Bain & Co, for example, a five percent increase in customer retention can boost profits by up to 95 percent. Similarly, a report from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs estimated that it is six or seven times more costly to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.
NEW SALES COMPETENCY >> Customer Value Management: Developing customer value plans to create value for sales opportunities through effective communications and thorough knowledge of customers and markets.
The sales function is the lifeblood of your company, infusing it with the new business and revenues it needs to continue growing and innovating. But salespeople need to adapt to new technologies, market pressures, and customer expectations. By reviewing your sales competencies every few years, you’ll ensure your sales team is equipped to handle new challenges and deliver results.
See HRSG’s multi-level sales competency dictionary.
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