The Future of Sales

FutureOf2Willy Loman wouldn’t know what hit him. The role of the traveling salesman has altered so much as to be unrecognizable. The days when you hustle and flog products to unsuspecting prospects – whether they need it or not – are long gone. Thank goodness!

Many transactions that used to require salespeople are now completed over the Internet. Armies of salespeople were laid off over the past couple decades, as those who were essentially order-takers were replaced by fax machines, bar codes, and Amazon’s one click process.

The Internet has changed everything. Most consumers contemplating a purchase do their own research, comparing features, benefits and prices. They think they know what they need before meeting a representative of your company. So what is the new role of the salesperson?

Today’s salesperson is a problem solver. In a perfect world, you find out early whether you can help prospective customers solve their problems with specific products, customized services, or through your connections. However, if the customer already knows that they just want to buy an off-the-shelf product, they don’t need you. That’s a simple transaction. They are buying a commodity and it may not matter that much where they get it.

When the customer has a problem and doesn’t know what to do about it, salespeople earn their pay. Some sales researchers argue that future customers will be prepared to pay the salesperson to give them advice. Already a segment of financial advisors (who used to be called life insurance salesmen), realtors, business brokers, kitchen designers, and marketing specialists are charging for their time and expertise, not necessarily for the transaction that evolves from their meetings. Solving the problem well is more important and valuable than the specific product.

Which leads to results and fulfilling your promise. It’s not enough to make a promise and get the sale. Customers today want to know that their salesperson will follow through and make sure they get the results they expected.

Sales organizations that are still selling commodities and paying salespeople based on transactions will need to re-examine their approach. Customers will pay a premium for your advice only if it adds value: advice that leads to improved decision-making; better solves their problem; saves them time; saves them money in the long run; and leads to a superior result. They need a knowledgeable, understanding salesperson to help them – initially. Once they figure it out, they don’t need to pay a premium every time they buy. So expense them for your time and charge a competitive price for your product to ensure that when they need it again, they’ll still buy from you. That’s the future of sales.

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September 5, 2017

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