How has Sales changed?
Change is the only constant!
So much has changed all around us. Being an 80’s kid, I have seen so much change and then some rapid change in the last decade.
Sales was also different back then, or so I remember!
The deal then was to build relationships, meet prospects, showcase products, offer solutions, negotiate and close. Well, sounds familiar? – yes, because the outline is still the same.
So, what has changed now?
Back then, there were big (read, huge) computers with processing power much less than the INR 5,000 smartphones available in the market today. The phones themselves were way too costly, slow, with a battery life of just over a couple of hours and never had the apps. Sales reps used to work on multiple computer screens for data but the phones today with galaxy of apps can help you multitask without moving away from the screen. And moreover, the phones today are not just for calling, they are your camera, book, TV, music player but an important tool whether you are working in the office or outside of it.
How many sales people of today use the Filofax to hold the visiting cards of the prospects and dial using a landline/desk phone to setup appointments? Then, manually enter the details of each person you met in the day, to the data server in the office which normally was just one screen and all the returning reps would fight for their turn.
Smart phones of today have all your contacts stored, apps that can scan and convert visiting cards to contacts or push them directly into the CRM, automate the workflows that sends out a thank you email while you are taking that morning walk. The CRMs of today give a 360-degree view of the contact, when the rep met him, what he had spoken or was shared and when do you project the deal to close. CRMs have totally changed the data handling as against the spreadsheet we once (or still prefer) to use.
Those days, Fax was considered authentic to send contracts and other confidential documents, but one had to worry about the ink in machine apart from going back and forth on phone to actually receive the document, mostly after a long wait. Cut to the current age – Emails have become the chosen mode of communication, sensitive documents can be protected, encrypted and fire-walled. Couple that with the fact that 66% of the people read those emails on their mobile devices.
Internet has also come a long way. Remember the time when we had a dial-up connection which basically was the phone landline that had to be plugged into the CPUs slot and then wait for the connection to be established. We now would have close to 2 Billion people across the globe who have access to internet and shortly there will be over 4 devices for each person on the face of the earth.
Communication, Connectivity, Multitasking has probably never been this easier.
Advertisements over radio and TV commercials where etched to our young minds and we still remember some of the jingles/tunes. (Nirma, Nirma, washing powder Nirma!, anyone?). Marketing and Advertising was one of the biggest beneficiary of the internet revolution. The way companies marketed their products/services completely changed from the print media days. Digital Marketing was probably the best thing that has happened to sales from the reach perspective. Add social, messaging apps, text/SMS, voice activated personal assistants, customer portals, and more to the mix. Every channel is a customer touchpoint, and customers expect an omni-channel experience.
Sales was only face-to-face meetings, long lunches and boardroom discussions once, has now diversified into virtual selling. Over the last 5 years virtual connections with people has increased by more than 4x than the in-person meetings. Inside Sales as a concept has taken the business world by a storm. What had started as simple lead generation function almost 2 decades ago, now has fully transformed into a revenue generating Inside sales function.
Let’s flip the coin - What about the Buyers?
Today, most buyers do their research before they talk to a vendor. Buyers don’t need a salesperson, or a brand, to tell them about a product or its pricing, quality or reputation. Buyers do their own research and, when they finally get in touch, they are already 65% to 70% of the way into the buying decision. That makes the sales person a mere facilitator and not the enforcer.
Sales is no longer a push function, but now is a pull function. Unless, companies find the right balance of their sales style, what and how they will use to attract buyers, the competition will jump in at the first opportunity.
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This post was originally published in Leadmarked.com/blog which is under the same company umbrella.