Will the Internet kill the modern sales professional?

JBMG_5500aBy Jeff Bowman

In the past few years I have written several articles about sales, its place in the business world and how the consultative solution sell has replaced the traditional sales speak. Technology today has changed all aspects of business from accounting to product sourcing and sales has probably been dealt the hardest blow of them all. We (salespeople) are now stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Consumers have far more options to source from, purchasing agents are now University-trained professionals, marketing strategies now focus more on social media and yet the revenue targets of salespeople have remained steady or have risen, even in the wake of shrinking economies.

business man presenting blank laptopSome believe that strong sales are the basis for an improving economy, and it is easy to argue that no money changes hands until a product or service is sold. Over the last several years, sales training by organizations has taken a dramatic decline, to the point where most salespeople lack the required skill sets to bridge the gap between the new technology and the solution sale. Couple that with an ineffective methodology for recruitment and development of new salespeople, and you have the perfect storm for sluggish sales in many organizations.

There appears to be an imbalance in the changing roles and responsibilities of the modern salesperson.  They are expected to be customer centric, solution providers, relationship builders, product specialists and savvy negotiators. These competencies were all part of the professional sales training program of two decades ago. Today, the focus of sales training programs is attracting clients utilizing social media sites such as LinkedIn, online sales strategies and inbound marketing techniques. Therein lies the issue. The two opposing forces of face to face selling and online buying.

For me the answer is an easy one. Products and services are being viewed more and more as commodities.  Organizations need to be business partners with their clients, and that is achieved through identifying additional value for the client. Value that can’t be found by the Internet tire kickers. Sales people now have more information on demographics and competitors than they could ever imagine thanks to the Internet. Training programs today need to combine the technology skills required to source knowledge and identify new potential, as well as the tried and true competencies of interpersonal selling skills, identifying needs and relationship development.  It is the bold Management team that appoints a Training Champion to ensure all the tools and resources are available to the sales team, and takes the steps to invest in them.

Empower them and they will sell. Empirical data shows that a 2% increase in productivity is shown to net a 100% return on training! The Internet is simply another tool that your salespeople need to be trained to use effectively in building client partnerships.

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Filed under Jeff Bowman, Sales, Training and Development

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