Constant change has always characterized the business world. Looking in the rear view mirror has never been a recommended strategy for determining future direction. However, from time to time the nature of the change takes on a different look. The scale and speed of the changes during these periods can truly be labeled disruptive. In the early 19th century the Industrial Revolution changed everything.
Let’s fast forward to the present and ask the question – are we now in such a period? If you are a VP of Sales, a sales manager or a salesperson, where you come down on this question will dramatically impact what you do as the future unfolds.
The folks at McKinsey answer the question in the affirmative in their recent book – No Ordinary Disruption. The authors summarize their answer as follows: “Today our world is undergoing a dramatic transition due to the confluence of four fundamental disruptive forces (urbanization, technology, aging population, and global connectivity) any of which would rank among the greatest changes the global economy has ever seen. Compared with the Industrial Revolution, we estimate that this transition is happening ten times faster and at 300 times the scale, and roughly 3,000 times the impact. Although we all know these disruptions are happening, most of us fail to comprehend their full magnitude and the second-order effects that will result.”
In Sales, these forces will alter in a fundamental way what customers buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it. If you are on the sales side of the table, the resulting changes will produce a new set of winners and losers. To be on the right side of that binary choice, sales leaders must up the bar as to the acceptable standard for sales performance.
There are a number of looking glasses through which this reexamination can be viewed. Here, let’s explore the notion that average is over from the perspective of the individual salesperson. What can they do given that superior performance is the new black?
- Emphasize the power of self-motivation. Salespeople need to assume personal responsibility for keeping up to speed. In today’s business environment self-directed learning and personal accountability must be a part of the equation for skill improvement.
The good news is there are more ways and means to accomplish this feat than ever before. Some suggestions: blogs (list of top rated sales blogs) work better than books and self-directed online training (Udacity, Udemy, edX, Coursea) can augment formal company-based training.
To support this idea sales leaders need to emphasize self-motivation both in terms of the selection and ongoing management of salespeople.
- Rethink sales training. Historically in many companies sales training has been a “once in awhile” type of thing. In markets where buyers are reinventing how they do business and the competition is keener than ever, this episodic approach to training is unlikely to carry the day – at best average will be maintained as opposed to being over.
Here again there is good news. Today, there are more innovative sales training companies and the training is more customized and creative than ever before – today sales training is being redefined and the new ideas are exciting and they actually work.
Sales leaders need to divorce from old notions like: “the only time we can do sales training is at our national meeting” or “ we trained all our people two years ago so we’re okay.”
- Revisit sales coaching. The position of front-line sales manager is clearly the pivotal job for creating and sustaining a superior sales team and coaching is their primary role. Too often sales coaching is put off until Friday due to competing time demands and it never happens. How much of their time should be spent coaching? Forty percent is a good round estimate.
The good news – exciting mobile-based coaching software is coming online to support coaching efforts so that coaching can be better, faster and cheaper than in times of yesteryear.
To support this idea sales leaders should put in place a rigorous talent management effort for their front-line sales managers. The development of a superior sales team will always be a bridge too far if the selection, training and retention of front-line sales managers is not a top priority.
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