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Over the past years we have witnessed an evolution in the way we interact with each other, and with it the way we do business. On these pages, I share my insights on the changes, and the impact on, why we sell, how we sell, and what we do to sell. It depicts a bright future for sales professionals, and the way we do business.
Freedom, Power, and Control.
What once were considered “peoples’ businesses” are now businesses taking place online. We shop as easily for a job online, as we do for a soul mate, through simple actions such as touching a screen.
Underneath all this lies an infrastructure of technology, enabling all kinds of new communication tools, such as social media. What these new communication tools have in common is that they provide virtually unlimited power, freedom and control to every person. Global communication, once accessible only to leaders of state, and business executives, is now available to anyone, anywhere in the world at anytime. We truly are witnessing a democratization of communication.
Top challenges for leaders.
Working, and consulting for Silicon Valley startups and fortune 500 companies, I find that despite all these changes around us, sales professionals voice the same three issues:
- Hit the number – Build pipeline, earn business.
- Hit the number – Hire great people.
- Hit the number – Forecast accurately.
When we fail to respond to the challenge of hitting the number, the common response from management is: to fire and rehire sales professionals, identify and sign better distribution channels, and/or buy and install a management tool, like a CRM. But what we are not seeing, is what is right in front of us!
What is the real business goal?
The real business goal for sales is to maximize the revenue, per client, per market, per region.
What we are experiencing as a result of SaaS, is that the revenue generation, normally secured when a deal was closed, now is pushed out over as many as five years. Meaning we no longer can optimize revenue at the closing of the contract.
Also there are real consequences of closing the wrong deal. Bad deals can draw valuable resources away from other clients and much needed roadmap development. We no longer can say, “at least we have the money in the bank”, because we don’t, we still have to spend, to earn it.
This falls very much in line with what key account executives have been doing for decades, working on large multi million dollar accounts. Many of these accounts were taken on as a loss in the first year, requiring custom development, and lots of hand holding. Key account managers know that the real revenue is earned in the years following the initial purchase.
Question: As a result of the changes around us, Is the objective of hitting a financial goal on a set date, still the only relevant goal for sales?
Activities that help us achieve financial goals.
For the past 15 years, sales professionals basically relied on three activities:
- To make phone calls.
- Set up meetings/demonstrations.
- Write emails.
These simple activities of: calls, meetings, and emails have dominated the sales calendar in an effort to achieve the business goals.
Efficiency & Effectiveness.
The business impact of calls, meetings, and emails have drastically dropped. We now commonly express our frustration in terms such as “email overload”, and “death by PowerPoint”.
Do not misinterpret this as if these activities need to go away! In many situations: calls, meetings, and emails will remain the most effective activities. But we have to curb its use. For example sending out a mass e-mail from a corporation, with a 2% open rate, may work in some twisted perspective, but it is neither the most efficient, nor the most effective way of developing business.
On the other hand, making a personal call to address your clients’ concern, and have a sincere conversation, will remain the most effective, and efficient way to resolve matters for years to come.
Question: What are the most effective, and efficient activities and tools to achieve our goals?
Evolution versus revolution
Sales has always experienced changes, once we made door-to-door calls, we used telefax, and for a while we use photography to create slides. We evolved. Todays tools create a similar transformation. However what is different is the speed at which these changes are going from an idea to reality. Whether to consider this an evolution, or a revolution, lies in the eyes of the beholder, what is a given is that we will see a lot more changes, and that these changes will only accelerate.
What happened to the first mouse?
The impact of speed is that it establishes a winner faster. Although the early bird gets the worm it is the second mouse who gets the cheese! For example Facebook, Youtube and LinkedIn were not really the first movers.
You are neither behind nor ahead. Inside sales teams, started the transformation process several years ago, and companies like DropBox have become very dependent on online sales, content, and use of the latest tools.
So, all in all, this is a pretty good time to get started, leveraging lessons learned from the first generation, while there is still much to gain by being the ‘first mover’ in your market.
I hope to address this, and many more questions alike, on this blog.