Sales Management Digest

Five Resources Your Sales Team Needs in the New Era of Sales
Tom Searcy
Does your sales team have the resources it needs to succeed? My family and I learned the importance of having the right resources when we went on a trip to a theme park in November. All the weather reports had indicated a very cool week, so we packed accordingly: pants, long-sleeve shirts, jackets, and so on. We get there, and, of course, it was a warm 80 degrees every day. Our wardrobe was completely inappropriate for the weather, and we had to buy new clothes at the park at outrageous prices. It was a costly mistake. We had the wrong resources for the circumstances. The same might be true for your sales team.

The era of sales has changed – and that means your sellers might not have the resources they need now. Significant shifts in the business-to-business (B2B) buying process have transformed selling as we know it, and hard work, charisma, and a bloated database of personal contacts is no longer enough for your sales force to succeed.

If you fail to equip your sales team with the right resources now, it might cost you more in the long run when you have to play catch-up. Below are five key resources your sales team needs now to succeed in this new era of sales.

Resource 1: Key Experts
The number of people prospects have in their buying process has more than doubled – from an estimated three people five years ago to seven now, according to Gartner Group. Many of the new attendees are subject matter experts. These technical and operationally relevant attendees from the prospect's team do not want to speak to your salesperson. They want to speak to their peer in your company. This means your sales team needs the support and presence of your company's best subject matter experts throughout the sales process if you want to connect to the buying team.

Resource 2: Future Insights
In the past, hard-to-access information was the coin of trade in meetings with prospects. Sellers were known for having information buyers could not obtain on their own. However, the Internet has eliminated the inaccessibility of data in this equation. Does that mean information is no longer of value? No, but it does mean the information your sales team brings to the table has to be something prospects cannot find anywhere else. This means your sales team must bring the future to your customers. Your value is seen in your ability to predict the impact of market information on your customer's business. Prediction feels risky, but you can use your experience to project a trajectory of possibilities. Data is easy, but insight requires experience and is, therefore, a more valuable resource.

Resource 3: Marketing Support
Your prospects are looking for integrity in your representation of your company and its people. With a few clicks, prospects can view your company's website, customer evaluations, key executive profiles, and employees' personal lives. How your company is represented in marketing campaigns is no longer just about what you advertise or push out to the marketplace – it is also about what your prospects and customers can see on their own. Most executives complete an online search of the salesperson with whom they are going to meet for the first time prior to the meeting.

Marketing can align all of those images so there is consistency in what is seen by the market, but that is not the only marketing effort needed. The most effective establishment of expertise and credibility often comes through the marketing channels of publishing and speaking. The interest generated through publishing and speaking is one of the key tools for attracting prospects and creating business interactions with your sales force.

Resource 4: Senior Executive Involvement
There is a sales truth – "You get sent to whom you sound like." Having spoken to more than 5,000 CEOs, a consistent complaint regarding sales has been, "Our salespeople cannot get to the real decision maker. It seems like only the senior executives can make the decisions any more."

Buying processes have changed. Small purchases are made through the purchasing or procurement departments; large purchases require a senior executive's sponsorship. However, to get the time and attention of these senior executives, you need to bring your senior executives to the table. Because real resources are being invested, this establishes that your company is committed to the relationship. It also establishes for the buying company that decisions can be made in the meeting. It is hard to get senior executives to come to a meeting when only a salesperson is going to be there. If you really want to win a deal, be prepared to invest in a new resource – senior executive time.

Resource 5: More Time
It is a frustrating thing to accept, but it is true – you can make more money, but you can't make more time. Time is finite, which is why it is precious, This is especially true in the sales process, where a lengthening buying process over the past few years has also lengthened the sales process. In fact, according to the 2013 study published by BtoB Magazine, "The Evolving B2B Purchase Process," 43 percent of companies reported that the sales process has lengthened over increased in the past three years. As a result, we have to make shifts in the sales process to adapt.

Time has stretched out in the decision and execution cycle, with the delays taking many forms. Procurement has to get involved even when you have an early yes. Getting senior approval may be harder. While you cannot give your sales team more hours in the day, you can certainly streamline the sales process to provide your sales team with the time necessary to invest in deals. This may mean taking a good, hard look at what you require of your sales force and eliminating the tasks that take up a significant amount of time without providing a solid return on investment.

While it is impossible to predict the future with complete accuracy, it is possible to evaluate the signs of change already occurring to ensure that your sales force has the right resources to succeed in this new era of sales. The more effort you invest in evaluating the changing landscape, the more likely your sales force is to have the right resources for the new world of sales.

Tom Searcy is CEO of Hunt Big Sales and author of multiple sales books, including Life After the Death of Selling: How to Thrive in the New Era of Sales. For more information, visit www.huntbigsales.com or follow @tomsearcy.
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