The landscape has changed. Technology, information, communication, globalization, and consolidation have changed the marketplace dramatically and will continue to do so. To excel in this environment, sales professionals must adopt new strategies. Sales leaders are defined by their willingness and ability to do so.
Some salespeople continue to practice old-style sales tactics (high pressure, little understanding of customer needs, too much talking). Why? Old habits are hard to break. Salespeople who use them don't realize how aware most customers are of those tactics.
But even salespeople who work honestly without pressuring customers are still vulnerable because of the vastness and speed of the information-rich Internet. Salespeople who only provide pricing or information and take orders are destined to become the dinosaurs of the information age. They can be replaced by automated ordering systems. Customers don't like wasting time with salespeople who don't add value to the buying process, and when the sale is for what are considered standard items, customers are eager to streamline the process.
Streamlining the sales process isn't any different from streamlining other processes inside progressive organizations. Companies have sought to cut response time, reduce costs, and eliminate duplication. Huge sales opportunities will always be available to salespeople who go after them. (We have examples in this resource from sales organizations recognized as being among the best from sources such as Selling Power magazine.) These top sales producers win these sales by leading, not by following.
Sales professionals who want to continue to be successful will realize that the world isn't the same today as it was yesterday. They know they must adapt to it. Sales professionals have to take the lead in applying new strategies that capitalize on change. They need to lead that change through their customers' and their own organizations. That is the only way to maintain a leadership position. Sales leaders must operate as the most successful and lasting businesses do: evolve to meet new demands and opportunities. Sales leaders know how to deal with change and turn it to their advantage.
Effective salespeople also realize that it isn't just the number of sales calls they make that counts, but the quality of those calls. Are they calling on the right companies, at the right levels, with the right products and the right strategies? Do they create high value for the customer with their problem solving? It is a matter of being effective as opposed to being efficient—to provide the right products to the right customers and develop relationships that grow business.
This resource is for sales professionals who want to be exceptional in this new environment. The sales leaders' model (figure 1) shows that sales professionals solve problems and create high value for their customers and that leaders capitalize on change with innovative thinking and approaches. Sales leaders focus on both of these challenges: they solve problems in an environment of rapid change, creating both high value and innovative customer solutions. Most sales professionals still face a daily test to find new ways to meet their sales quotas, broaden their customer base, and stabilize their sales revenues. This resource provides a fresh approach for overcoming such challenges and offers a unique perspective on sales and leadership for salespeople who want to stand out in their field.
The salespeople who survive and prosper in the future will be those who not only have a good foundation of selling skills, but who are able to deliver high-value, innovative solutions that build lasting customer relationships and success in an environment of rapid change. This resource provides the leadership strategies that will help you accomplish that.
Donald and Doris Fisher founded Gap Inc. in 1969, in San Francisco, California, with a single store and a few employees. They opened the store because they couldn't find jeans that fit well. Today, Gap has evolved into three brands and one of the world's largest specialty retailers, with sales of $3.35 billion, 165,000 employees, and 4,250 stores in 3,100 locations in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Japan, and Germany as of this writing. What Donald and Doris Fisher did is what sales leaders do: be alert for problems and then look for or create solutions.
The Rules of Selling presents an approach for successfully selling in an environment of rapid change. POWER, in the context of the sales leaders' model, means to:
Own the Innovative Solution, and
To be successful in a constantly changing and highly competitive marketplace, you must be a leader. To do anything less is to leave your fate in someone else's hands. If you are not the one finding and solving new customer problems, someone else will be.