We all know the world of buying and selling is undergoing the biggest transformation in the last 20 years, but let’s add some detail to that. What salespeople are challenged to do now is “sell at the speed of change.” There are four areas of change that impact the conversations salespeople need to have on a daily basis. The first are changes in your value proposition, new products, services, support, technology added, old ones deleted. The second are the same changes happening real time for your competitors' value proposition. The third are changes in your customer needs, perhaps driven by regulatory or geopolitical events. And finally, changes in your strategy that are executed by the sales force. These changes could include a new approach to pricing, vertical markets, new ideal customer criteria, etc.
Recently we executed a scan against these four areas for a global logistics firm. We tallied 27 changes across the four areas in the last 90 days. We then asked those executives how those changes are synthesized and communicated to the sales force in a way that allows words to come out of their mouths that reflect their value, competitive value, customer needs and execution of leader priorities real time. Their answer was, “we’re not sure.”
Columbia professor Rita McGrath recently released her book (sadly enough) entitled “The End of Competitive Advantage.” She points out that the annual planning cycle based around leveraging your long term sustainable advantage is now gone…forever. It has been replaced by a series of short term transient advantages. In another tech firm we were told by a senior executive that the equivalent of annual planning now happens quarterly. Think about that… it’s the reality of competing today.
Organizations now need to be adept at building systems and competency to capture all these changes, synthesize them and create a knowledge conduit for sellers. It is now organizational competence that will drive individual skills for sales. Sellers need an entirely new set of tools to compete today and at the core of those tools is real time market knowledge to lead the customer, and the skill to have those conversations.