The Changing Face of Sales, Part 1: “So, What is Changing?”

Peter: So what is currently happening in the world of sales?

Ian: I think that the whole face of the world of selling is changing dramatically. As ever, there is both good news and bad news.

The bad news is that customers in all sectors are simply not as loyal as they used to be to their various suppliers: they increasingly tend to use them for a limited time and then move on, often quite capriciously, with little if any warning or preliminary dialogue, or so it frequently seems to the now “ex” supplier!

Peter: Why would that be?

Ian: The reasons are many and some are complex, but it’s becoming very common that people use a supplier for a certain period and then they get a more competitive bid or develop a different (perceived as preferable) relationship, and just decide to move on.

This happens in business to business sales, and is even more evident and obvious in the general consumer and retail sectors.

The Accelerating Pace of Change

Organisations are changing ever faster and people are aware of having many choices about which suppliers to use and how best, using the myriad available forms of contact, to use them for their own maximum convenience and economy.

So the bad news is that, as an organisation, you now need to be seeking new customers constantly, not just periodically or on an ‘ad hoc’ basis. Maybe you always did need to do that, but nowadays the importance of continuity and regularity of selling activity is paramount for businesses that expect to survive, let alone to flourish in the ‘teens’ and onwards into the ‘twenties’.

The Other Side of the “Coin of Change”

The good news, of course – the other side of the ‘coin of change’ – is that because many, in fact most customers are not as loyal as they used to be, there are many more opportunities to get and to win new clients and new work … so many more ways of attracting them …meeting them … convincing them … then taking them away from their current supplier and giving them your services instead!

There is also a tendency for there no longer to be dedicated and specialised sales forces in organisations. Often you have people working in a highly technical capacity and servicing clients – and looking for opportunities to grow and extend the business being done with them! So actually these mainly technical and specialised people must have, or develop, different skills to those needed to effectively deliver the actual products or services supplied.

P: So, in these times, is it more about the getting of the work than the doing of it?

The need for social competencies…

I: With IT projects there is often a lot of opportunity for extending and increasing the scope of services provided, so that all staff need to become proficient at engaging effectively and personably with the customer in developing that process. They also need to have the negotiating skills to talk through and agree what the extras are going to be, and the accompanying social skills and confidence (with a real sense of empowerment) to engage with customers in a way where they feel they can talk freely about all aspects of their requirements.

The rise and rise of social networking…

There is also a growing trend for everyone, and especially perhaps for technical and scientific people (or is that an unfair “assumption”?), to use I.T. and various forms of social networking as much as possible in order to avoid, whenever possible, personal encounters with others. I think that, sometimes, this growing preference for “arms length” interpersonal communication de-skills people in their personal relationships – those vital skills of building a relationship with someone face to face: and you need to do that in a business.

P: Do you think that people are generally seeking alternatives to meeting others face to face?

I: I think that often people do use e-mail, the internet, Facebook, Twitter, texting and so on when it would usually be better and more effective (and quicker as well!) to simply pick up the phone to sort things out, or to set up a meeting. This is, after all, the time honoured way of doing business and was in use for many decades before social networking, or even computing were in their infancy.

Everyone now needs to judge the moment and the occasion, and to choose and use the appropriate form and style of communication that is likely to be most effective, as opposed to most ‘comfortable’ or ‘risk-free’.

Be willing to extend yourself, and move further out of your comfort zone!

Certainly there are always risks in talking to people, but it is our willingness to take those risks and to develop relationships based on meaningful 1:1 human contact that gets the best results – both in business and much more obviously in personal relationships. It was ever thus and will ever continue to be thus while people are people and not Messrs’ Spock.

People need to become less reliant on I.T. in places, situations and at key points where they could do so much better by talking to or meeting the customer.

To be continued…

If you wish to discuss your teams communication, negotiation and selling skills further, give us a call on 0114 236 3781.

by Ian Flemming and Peter Collett ©Dynamiq Consultants U.K. 2013

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