The sales industry as we once knew it has undergone significant changes. The increase in inbound selling and the popularity of social media have influenced the sales industry in ways that we still don't completely understand. Sales leaders are looking at their jobs—and those of their salespeople—in a whole new light.
From individual salespeople and sales managers to vice presidents of sales and sales trainers—even to leadership and executive coaches—the roles and responsibilities have changed for anyone who plays a part in the sales industry. For example, if a salesperson is now seen as more of a sales guide, then a sales manager is now more like a coach. And what a good coach does is provide game plans that are different from those of their competition so they can have the best and most productive strategies to lead their team to a win.
Coaching Your Team to a Win
In order to lead your sales team into the present landscape of inbound selling and social media, all the while keeping your reputation going strong, you're most likely going to have to make some changes to the way you have things set up now. You'll need to show your team an entirely new way of approaching sales but help them understand that change can be invigorating. Of course, you'll experience some frustrations and setbacks along the way, but for the most part, it’s exciting when you can get your team to see that they'll be experiencing more job freedom, higher expectations and accountability, and new responsibilities.
Before we go any further, let’s address the elephant in the room: Has the role of inbound marketing made salespeople unnecessary? Before the Internet became so accessible to the average customer, the role of the salesperson was to provide solutions that couldn’t be found elsewhere. At that time, there was no doubt that the salesperson was essential to the process.
But the Internet changed all of that: Customers can now overstep the role salespeople once played and figure out the solutions themselves—for free.
If your current team approaches sales in the same, archaic way they've been doing for years—pushing solutions when your customers can easily go find it themselves—you’re essentially doomed. Going about sales this way forces you to sell on price or have to negotiate on price. It puts you in a very tight corner, and the result is that your salespeople have been turned into a commodity.
However, if you take off your blinders and understand that the role of salespeople has changed and that their obligation now is to create opportunities, change how customers view what they can buy from you, and teach and facilitate industry trends, then it’s certain you've made the role of salespeople essential to the success of your company.
In many ways, the new role of the sales manager is to blend sales and marketing. Sales is the new marketing and marketing is the new sales because their success is no longer tied to a relationship that's built on a location.
Once your salespeople understand and implement this new way of thinking, they can bring more value to their customers and create superstar results. And if sales managers think this way as well, they'll take their teams to places that will far surpass where their competitors have ever been or ever will go.
Successfully implementing this new way of sales thinking is all about realizing that there are new ways to approach the role of sales in your company. And the role of the sales manager is to get his or her team to shift into this new way of thinking about work.
As a sales manager, you've got to be able to teach your team to create their own ideal customer opportunities, coach them on how to differentiate themselves individually, and interject new ways of thinking about typical customer challenges. You'll also need to prompt them to write educational content to help guide their customers. You'll have to push them to lead and facilitate community and peer discussions, and create presentations between customers and partners.
This shift won’t completely change the entire world of sales for years. But if you can start encouraging your team now to begin thinking and doing things this way, you'll be far ahead of the game, leading the way.
It’s about empowering your sales teams to build their own expertise and get out of the commodity business. It’s about creating superstars in your organization, not managing mediocrity day in and day out.
John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine. He's also the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network. His latest book, Duct Tape Selling: Think Like a Marketer—Sell Like a Superstar, is available online and in bookstores May 15.
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