What is behind the sales function?
We hear that selling is an art, that it is innate, that it is a science. In short, selling is convincing someone of something: a meeting, a test, a presentation, a bid, a pilot project, a sale, a contract. Behind all this, we talk about skills, and in 2022, skills are what we need more.
The skills you need to master will depend not only on the reality of the market but also on your strategy. Here are the points that most influence the skills needed to keep selling to new customers, sell more and retain paying customers.
The first point: the relationship between demand and supply.
- When demand outweighs supply, customers are more open to ordering what is available out of obligation. The two skills to master are the capacity to direct your actions toward the most profitable customers, the qualification, and the ability to manage them according to their potential.
- When supply is almost equal to demand, our sales teams must be more responsive to the needs to bring value to the company and be able to reassure the customer that they are making the right choice with us.
- When the offer exceeds the demand, the sales teams must understand their interlocutors to ensure they bring them value according to their reality. Therefore, we have to adapt our discourse to each of them. We realize that in a purchase decision, the decision-maker is not the only person we need to convince; the influencer and, more and more, the user too must be convinced. This is what we call “political-decision making”
Beware! It would be easy to say that we currently live in a reality where demand exceeds the supply. The vast majority of our customers, SMEs or large multinationals, are indeed experiencing difficulties fulfilling their orders. The factories are full, or if we want to be more accurate, the order books are full as factories lack manpower, raw materials, drivers for the delivery… But this situation is temporary; the mistake would be not to continue developing the skills of your sales teams, slow down the sales process optimization projects, and postpone the IT projects that affect sales. This situation is temporary, and as soon as it recovers, the companies that will benefit from it are those that would have prepared their sales function before the recovery. By preparation, we mean optimizing their processes, developing or strengthening their skills, and implementing practical tools to measure and anticipate results.
The second point: Your targets according to your strategy.
For this point, let’s take two extremes to illustrate the impact of strategies on skills.
- You have a strategy of being the cheapest in the market. Your approach should focus on internet sales, inside sales and a few representatives on the road for the key accounts. Efficiency is the key, the most sales for the least effort.
- If you have a customer proximity strategy, you need to develop your ability to understand the political-decision making process of your customers. Would also be required a strategic account management approach and knowing how to approach senior executives, the “C-Level”. As you can read in the new book by Frédéric Vendeuvre and Éric Pinard, Key Account Manager: “Developing strategic relationships and creating value with key customers“.
Of course, you will point out the fact that my descriptions don’t mention some skills: knowing how to handle an objection, how to make a powerful speech in the first meeting, how to ask the right questions; how to conclude, negotiate, keep control, having interpersonal skills, knowing how to listen, the rigour, the perseverance, optimizing your territory and so on. For me, mastering all these skills is the minimum required in 2022. It’s like knowing your multiplication tables for an engineer.
The only purpose of this table is to get you to think about the skills you will be able to rely on in the short term to achieve your goals and those you will need to develop in the medium and long term.
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