Okay, okay, I know the title of this post will shock many of my regular followers. You know that I have long railed against the terminology Sales 2.0, ERP 2.o, CRM X.0, and so forth. I’ve succumbed—at least for the purposes of this post.
Over the past week, I’ve been involved in a number of discussions about the future of selling (surprise). Last week, for example, I attended the Sales 2.o conference. I heard the prediction that the number of sales jobs in the US would go from 18M to 3M in 2020. I continue to read about the “death of selling,” (perhaps wishful thinking).
I have to say I agree–and disagree. I think all this speaks to the tremendous transformation our profession is going through–at least B2B sales. The role of the sales professional is changing profoundly, driven by tremendous shifts in the way customers buy. The traditional roles of the sales person are fast changing. Even the role of the sales person as a consultative, solutions oriented, trusted advisor is no longer sufficient to meet the changing demands of customers or our own organizations. Even the role of the sales person as the “organization’s face to the customer,” no longer appropriately describes what is critical to support revenue generation and business growth in the future.
Those skills will still be needed, but the role of the sales professional is fast changing to that of a general manager–whether a general manager for a major account or that of a geographic territory. Sales Professional 3.0 has to have a much richer set of skills. They have to create a vision and execute a strategy to maximize the revenue penetration and growth within their assigned customer set. They have to orchestrate getting the right resources in front of the right customers at the right time. Whether it’s the right marketing campaigns to nurture and develop the customer, whether it’s getting the right customer service resources in to solve a problem. It may be engaging a customer in discovering a new opportunity to grow their business or in thinking about differently about how they run their business. It might be connecting great current customers with prospects, it might be monitoring and leveraging discussions in the “social” world.
Yes, the sales person will still have many meetings with customers and prospects, they will still have a sales process–but the process will be much richer—focusing on customer experience management and facilitating customer buying cycles. We’ll still be doing proposals and making presentations—or directing resources to help us do those. We will still manage pipelines, opportunities and projects, making sure the business for which we are general managers is meeting its business performance objectives and we are satisfying both the needs and demands of our customers, partners (internal/external) and stakeholders.
The skills of Sales Professional 3.0 will be much broader and richer. They will have to start by being outstanding consultative/solutions focused sales people—but that’ just table stakes. They will have to have rich business/financial management skills, deep project management skills, great leadership/team building skills. They will have to become masters of collaboration (both internal, with partners, and customers) and facilitation. They will have to have rich change management skills.
Analytic skills, being able to assess data, develop and executing strategies that are data and fact driven, making business decisions about resource allocation and risk management will be key to the success of Sales Professional 3.0. Relationship management, leadership, trust remain critical–both in managing customer relationships, internal and partner relationships.
Navigating the organization, enlisting resources across the organization and outside the organization will be critical skills. Being able to leverage resources that don’t report to the Sales Professional 3.0, motivating them to support the execution of the business plan are important.
Sales Professional 3.0 will have to make investment decisions–they will have to choose where in their territories they will have to invest–resources, time, people. They will have to determine how to get the greatest return not only on their time and that of the people and resources they leverage into the territory.
While the number of “traditional sales jobs” may decline dramatically over the next 10 years, there will always be a need for people responsible for managing revenue generation, customer relationships, and territory growth. Increasingly they won’t look like traditional sales people. But whatever title we call them, they will need the skills and capabilities of Sales Professional 3.0.
Do you agree with this shift in the sales role? What do you think Sales Professional 3.0 will look like?