Decades ago, a high-performing salesperson would spend a typical workday in his office, making phone calls, meeting with prospects, developing sales materials, and asking his assistant for a cup of coffee, to schedule an appointment or to make lunch reservations. Today, the typical salesperson sits in a cubical, coffee shop, or at home, without the help of an assistant.
Let’s detail some of the other key changes we’ve seen in recent years.
1. Virtual, not physical, offices
What ever happened to the huge office table where you could kick your feet up while on the phone with a prospect? The adoption of a mobile lifestyle has rendered big office spaces nearly obsolete for sales reps. With the internet and mobile CRM platforms and the ability to work wherever and whenever, more and more sales reps are going virtual, with their laptops as their offices and a bundle of apps as their assistants.
While the mobile lifestyle is appealing in many ways, there’s nothing like a place to call your home away from home, where you can fellowship with your colleagues at the water cooler and woo your clients in the conference room.
2. Social media, not phone calls
The primary tool for salespeople to reach their customers and would-be buyers has changed many times throughout the years. It used to be a knock at the door, then a direct mail piece, then a telephone call, then an email. Today, savvy sales reps are recognizing that by using tools like content marketing and social media, customers will come to them. A single post can reach thousands of prospects simultaneously.
Salespeople are able to flaunt their subject matter expertise to a larger audience through the power of the internet. If not used carefully, however, this approach can remove the sales reps’ greatest asset, their personal touch from the sales process. Gartner Research predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human at all.
3. From persuader to problem solver
Not so long ago, every salesperson knew their cold-calling script and deal-closing statements by heart. It was imperative to master the technique of persuading the prospect that their product was the best, with a not-so-subtle aggressiveness that pushed prospects into the sales funnel. Today, prospects have made about 60% of their buying decision before even talking to a sales rep, according to Corporate Executive Board. They have checked user reviews, talked to friends and done research on the internet before deciding that they want to buy a product.
The old tactics of pushiness and force selling no longer fly with knowledgeable consumers. Today, the sales process focuses on getting to know customers better, discovering their pain points, uncovering their needs and presenting them with options that solve their problems.
Yes, a lot has changed since the days of your dad’s sales team. While we are never going back to each sales rep having their own executive assistant, it still makes sense for companies to find ways to limit the admin time that burdens their reps.