Over the last 20 years, required characteristics of a sales rep have been radically altered. What are the differences, and what must a salesperson be to make it in today’s sales force? How do you define today’s sales force effectiveness?
Those of us who are old enough can remember the successful salesperson of yesterday. He or she was generally a snappy dresser. Social skills were always present, if often overdone. A good sales rep knew how and when to drop a compliment. The ones that truly excelled at their jobs were always well-liked, and in fact, made many sales by what was called “dint of personality”—basically through the virtue of just being who they were.
A salesperson of old didn’t necessarily have to become a total expert on their industry or even their product. This is exemplified by the fact that it was much more common decades back for a sales rep, when changing jobs, to completely change industries. He or she brought most of the skillset they needed—which was primarily composed of selling themselves.
Sales reps that came up in this traditional environment, however, are having to come to grips with how much the landscape and idea of sales force effectiveness has changed. To continue to survive they are having to adapt their methods and sales techniques to a new environment.
What has changed everything for sales is the same agent that has caused sweeping changes for most of society in general: the internet. Where yesterday a company buyer would learn about a particular product or even about a whole product line from a salesperson, today buyers can learn all they want about products in which they’re interested right online, before they ever speak to a salesperson.
By the time that dialogue does happen with a sales rep, the old “personality” skills will come in a far distant second place to product knowledge and expertise. The rep also needs to be an expert on that buyer’s industry and issues commonly encountered within it. Understanding your buyer became a key element in today’s sales pipeline.
A salesperson that truly succeeds in today’s business world also becomes as much of an expert as possible on the buyer’s company, before engaging in any kind of pitch with that buyer.
Because of the requirement of expertise, it is far more common today for a salesperson to remain in a particular industry for their entire career. That is because it can take years to truly learn all about an industry—and few to none are going to make that time investment only to switch to another industry and put in that kind of time all over again.
A sales rep doesn’t simply become an expert and remain that way without constantly adding to their knowledge. Products and services are constantly updated and improved. The industry itself goes through constant change. Economic fluctuations can mean different approaches to keeping a product or service freshly attractive to buyers.
Along with keeping current with their own products, services, industries, and customers, it is always prudent for salespeople to continuously upgrade their own sales techniques. This can be done by paying close attention to top reps within their own companies, reading books by sales training leaders, and even attending sales seminars. A salesperson can never be too good at what they do—especially in today’s stiffly competitive sales environment.
In the old days motto behind sales force effectiveness was “ABC: Always Be Closing.” Today there is complete justification in adding “ABL: Always Be Learning.”
The Added Advantage of a CRM Solution in Sales Force Effectiveness
Yesterday’s salesperson had to keep on top of sales any way they could: through spreadsheets, handwritten notes, or in their heads. Today business moves far too quickly for those methods to be anything but a waste of valuable time.
A fantastic advantage that today’s sales force has is that of a leading-edge CRM solution. A salesperson can have all the needed hard-won vital information about a prospect or customer just a few clicks away. As further information is gathered and sales progress is made, the sales rep can rapidly enter it into the right place in the sales process for easy retrieval when it is needed.
Yesterday’s winning personalities can certainly make it in today’s sales force. But without also becoming total experts, they never will.
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