Sales as a profession is changing fast. The new way to engage and motivate prospects is offering them a community to join. Sales is more about being a Community Manager, rather than a hunter and closer.
Is there a new role for sales executives, now the bean counters have done their worst – re-engineering, automating and outsourcing most of what we used to do?
How can sales representatives add value to a business, now prospects won’t give them appointments, or even answer the phone?
Will everything in the sales professionals toolbox be netted down to web pages? Will computers buy from other computers?
Where is the new role for sales people – after the recession and the downsizing?
Business architects, accountants and information technology guys have been in charge, ever since the Business Process Re-engineering fad. They’ve been finding ways to distil everything businesses do into automated processes, and outsourced the ones which couldn’t. The role of sales professionals has become ever more constrained, by rules set by faceless wonders. Meanwhile they have to battle senseless decisions made by managers, as well as prospects who don’t want to play.
Just like you, I’m sure, I’ve been struggling to understand what’s going on, and how we need to respond. Over the last few days an answer, maybe the answer, has started to emerge. Let’s see if you agree, or disagree and can add to the thinking.
Customers and prospects don’t see themselves as steps in the business architect’s processes. They’re individuals, with their own processes to contend with. As BPR changes everything the gap between customers and suppliers widens. This was a gap sales professionals used to fill, but today’s processes can’t cope with.
Meanwhile those prospects are comfortable being part of communities. Through groups, they’re happy to engage with people they won’t talk to on the phone.
Maybe the new role for sales people is as Community Managers – representatives of the organisation who can be interfaces, not part of the process. But critically, not order takers. People who’ll hang around, and be there with an inside track to the decision makers when stuff goes wrong.
This new role of Community Manager has a lot in common with the way we used to manage our territories. At the country club we were insiders helping other insiders get the right deal. In industry groups we helped others understand what was going on in the industry. In major accounts we helped department managers know what their peers were saying. Wherever we went we helped people understand solutions to their problems, connect with others like them and explained to our inside people what they needed to do to help the real world go around.
We should become Community Managers, exploiting whichever tools are available to help our customers get the most value from our businesses. The new role for sales is back to the future.
What do you think? Does this make sense?
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