Shifts Happen

By Cindy Waxer

According to an Internet and telephone survey of 113 sales managers conducted by Sales Performance International (SPI), many sales professionals fail to recognize important shifts in buyers’ purchasing habits. Keith Eades, CEO of SPI, highlights these shifts and explains how sales professionals can modify their selling strategies to address new challenges.

Prepare to sell at the senior level.
In today’s tough economy, buyers often defer to senior-level executives to make ultimate purchasing decisions. As a result, salespeople need to become comfortable with the business speak of senior-level personnel. To prepare, Eades recommends that salespeople engage in simulated exchanges in which one person plays the role of the senior executive, and another plays the role of the seller and identifies the executive’s problems. This role-playing exercise allows salespeople to better anticipate the responses and objections they are likely to encounter when communicating with senior-level executives.

Understand the customer’s business.
A turbulent economy has forced many companies to rethink their business objectives. What worked yesterday for a business is unlikely to work today. As a result, Eades warns that salespeople must ensure that their knowledge base is current. To do so, they need to research the new challenges facing their clients. Industry trends, obstacles and up-and-coming competitors are all factors with which salespeople must become familiar in order to cater to their clients’ current needs.

Adopt management flexibility.
Sales professionals’ attempts to adopt new sales strategies are of little significance if the sales manager fails to recognize the need for change. After all, salespeople often are the first to discover new industry trends – and to refashion their pitches accordingly. As a result, sales managers must be willing to listen to their salespeople and trust their feedback. Eades advises, “Sales managers must be aware of what buyers are asking for, and must be flexible enough to grant their salespeople the autonomy they need to give buyers what they want.”

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