The Future of Sales Management: How Sales Leaders can Implement Change into Their Team to Attract Today’s Buyers
It’s clear that the market is changing, and sales leaders have, on the whole, been prepared for this change. What many haven’t been prepared for, however, is the speed at which the sales environment - and the needs of buyers - would evolve. So what does this mean for the future of sales management?
Over the course of the last 12 months, we have witnessed the widespread adoption of new technology, embraced new ways of working and established new methods of interaction. Humanistic management has emerged as a key trend, collaboration is more important than ever and teams are increasingly remote. This presents an exciting opportunity for sales leaders to adapt their strategies and go-to-market approaches, and implement widespread change to attract the modern buyer.
Challenging the Existing Sales and Marketing Approach
With business models, value chains, consumer needs and buying patterns all changing, sales and marketing activity naturally needs to change to keep pace and remain effective. This presents an enormous opening for sales leaders to pivot their approach, implement new ways of working and develop their teams to better meet the new expectations of buyers across the sales spectrum.
Now, more than ever, sales leaders must have the confidence to challenge existing processes and question whether a new sales strategy may better align with shifting business goals. An eight-step process which begins with external and internal analysis, considers a broad range of strategies, takes into account sales team capabilities and includes a gap analysis is a trusted blueprint which will yield a new, business-aligned strategy.
Understanding Tomorrow’s Buyers
Your products may be the same, but your customers aren’t. This shows just how critical it is for any new sales strategy to shift its focus from the product to the buyer. Building a sales pipeline for online and offline sales to meet the buyer of the future means having a clear and tight grasp on exactly what those buyers need to make a decision.
An essential prerequisite for succeeding in the sales environment of the future is having a deep understanding of the client’s needs. This means recognising that those needs are not static and will continue to evolve. Sales leaders who understand this evolution, who are vigilant about today’s realities and open to what’s awaiting further down the line are most likely to be successful.
Understanding what the future landscape will look like begins by spending more time building relationships with buyers, rather than selling to them. Sales teams should be prepared for in-depth conversations with clients and stakeholders and able to use this insight to generate a full picture and broad overview of the current situation. This also aids in building - and fine tuning - a strategy that delivers value in the future.
Understanding the impact of changing buyer behaviours- and the underlying reasons for those shifts- can help sales leaders to see how sales teams need to change to meet the buyer decision making process of the future. This process is likely to be different for each segment, highlighting the need for a flexible, agile approach.
Agile sales leaders and their teams will also take steps to understand the complex stakeholder landscapes that influence the decision making process, and adapt accordingly. It’s important here to consider how the user of the product may have changed since the initial strategy was created, who’s now responsible for decision making and how decisions are made.
Essential Skills for the Modern Sales Manager
All sales leaders, regardless of their particular industry, have a common requirement; they, and their team, must have the skills necessary to help the business achieve its mission. Herein lies another opportunity; this time, for the sales leader committed to continuous personal and professional development.
There are a number of new, future focussed skills valuable for the sales manager keen to maintain high sales performance and guide their team to success. These essential skills can largely be broken down into three distinct categories rooted in alignment, execution, and renewal, with high performing managers possessing skills from across the spectrum.
Creating alignment ensures that everyone is on the same page, sharing the same vision of where to go, and how to get there.
Driving execution means having the necessary skills to transform these plans from concept into reality.
Renewal-based skills make sure that the organisation can continue to adapt to internal and external challenges.
However, perhaps a more pressing question than ‘what skills are vital in the future?’ is ‘how can we build and develop these skills quickly across the team?’ That’s especially true when it comes to new hires. Leaders need to know how to build their own skills, but they also need to know how to coach new hires fast to thrive in the new normal.
It’s important to understand that the approaches that may have delivered previously might not work in the future, where a need for fast market screening and learning is anticipated to be crucial in the bid to focus on the right customer segments, at the right time. Future proofed leaders will be able to learn - and test - at a rapid speed.
A great deal of change is taking place throughout both internal and external environments, and adapting quickly is fundamental to success. Sales leaders, and their teams, need to respond to the new situation, learn fast, draw the right conclusions, and adapt their sales strategies and go-to-market approaches quickly to drive sales and profits.
Embracing the Importance of Storytelling in Sales
Storytelling has long been used within sales and marketing to strengthen engagement. Now, it also has a useful role to play within the sales team environment. Storytelling can make you a better sales leader and increase team motivation as you transition to the future of sales, too.
The ABCD model that many sales leaders already use to engage buyers (Attention, Benefits, Credibility, Direction), can be deployed to help sales teams accelerate their performance and embrace new processes and goals. By working backwards and starting with the end of the story, leaders can more clearly see how to attract the attention of their team and keep sales professionals motivated to achieve performance targets.
What You Need to Know about Remote Team Performance Management
There are many differences between in-person sales and remote sales for sales leaders to understand and address in order to elevate performance. This includes the technical infrastructure required for remote meetings, the lack of non-verbal communications such as body language, and much more of a 1:1 focus, without cues from the buyer’s own team.
As such, there are a number of things that sales leaders of the future need to know about remote team performance management.
Leading a remote team can be difficult. One of the primary shifts that successful sales leaders can make as part of their creation of a new strategy for the future sales environment is to focus more on their people. This means supporting the reps who are poised to be at the heart of changing customer relationships.
While there’s been a lot of talk about how critical it is for businesses to be data-driven, it’s time to look past performance data. Today, sales leaders striving to maximise all of the opportunities presented by the new sales landscape know that a humanistic management approach is the way of the future. Putting your people first, and caring for them, can nullify some of the biggest issues associated with managing a distanced team and open up new avenues of potential.
Remote working may be more efficient for some, but not for all. Sales reps may lose their tried-and-tested routines and success principles. If they feel they lack the remote sales skills needed to sell with confidence, motivation can ebb. Supporting people through disruptive change is central to overcoming these issues and unlocking greater versatility and productivity.
Nurturing Productivity in Remote Workers
The shift to digital rather than face-to-face interactions can initially pose a threat to the productivity of previously high performing sales teams. The loss of long-established routines, such as visiting prospects at their place of business, may create feelings of uncertainty or lead to a lack of motivation for sales team members. The introduction of new technologies can provoke a loss of confidence while the new operating norm can call skills into question. For the naturally outgoing sales rep, the loss of interaction with others can cause energy and productivity levels to decline.
There are a number of ways that sales leaders can negate these challenges and amplify productivity; most notably by shifting their focus from end results to team support.
While end results matter, it’s impossible to achieve the desired results without the necessary resources to deliver them. The task for sales leaders is to consider ways to improve performance and productivity of remote workers while also recognising the difficulties posed by the shift out of the office.
This can be achieved by developing a change strategy. This strategy should install appropriate new processes, such as instigating e-lunches to foster connections, and promote a culture of rapid learning to offset the challenges of dealing with new technology. It should seek to better align the sales approach with the needs of the sales team, continuously track performance, and generate the right balance between goal orientation and vital team support.
The Impact of Technology on Sales
Forward-thinking sales leaders recognise the importance of embracing the digital revolution. These sales leaders also understand the impact of technology, and how it can help teams adapt to change, along with the different ways that it can facilitate selling right now.
While digital transformation may seem nerve wracking, there are many off-the-shelf tools that can easily be implemented, such as Zoom for video calls and CRM systems for lead management. This wealth of tools should make it easy to equip teams with the tech they need to realise their full potential. Tools can be used to communicate, to engage, and to share knowledge within the organization.
Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity is often associated with gender, background, and so on. But it’s also a term used to describe different personalities, skill sets, and past experiences. By including a wide range of different people within the team, sales leaders can set their team up in such a way that each person can play to their strengths, in exactly the right place.
Along with taking a people-centric approach and embracing technology, diversity and inclusion is a third key area where sales leaders can change now to succeed tomorrow. Embracing diversity and inclusion in sales adds to creating high performing sales teams by embedding the broad and widespread skills needed to really succeed.
Why is diversity so vital? Because ‘sales’ is becoming much more of an umbrella term. Once upon a time, sales meant sales. Today, as processes are being continually developed, sales is becoming increasingly complex. It now incorporates a huge number of different areas of activity, and different segments.
For example, analytics is anticipated to become a key area of future sales strategies, which means that teams must have process-oriented, analytical people onboard. However, to engage with audiences, teams need someone who is able to communicate with prospects on a personal level, rather than talk in stats and numbers.
The Future of Sales
Technology and industry are accelerating at lightning speed. The way people source information, shortlist suppliers and make a final purchase decision is changing.
With those changing expectations, our approach to sales also needs to change if we are to keep pace – and fully exploit all opportunities that this evolution promises. And while these changes may well be tricky to navigate, they also create a much-needed opportunity for sales leaders to rethink their old, outdated strategies, and start adapting.
For the modern sales leader, embracing change and committing to evolving the sales process drives the creation of stronger, better performing teams that are resilient enough to handle uncertainty, and deliver results.