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We Have The Opportunity Of A Lifetime

by David Brock on July 6th, 2011

Recently, I listened to an interview of Seth Godin by Michael Hyatt.  It’s an absolutely brilliant interview, but that’s not what I want to write about.  Seth used a phrase that I want to co-opt for this blog post.  He said, “We Have The Opportunity Of A Lifetime.”

I’m captivated by that phrase.  As sales and marketing professionals, I think we have the opportunity of a lifetime.

My friend, Dave Stein, has said sales has changed more in the past 3 years than through our entire history.  I’ve written that we are at an inflection point—being driven by the customer.

The world of buying has/is changing profoundly.  Consequently, the worlds of selling and marketing are changing profoundly!  What we are experiencing is not a temporary disruption, it is a fundamental structural change to how people buy, consequently how we sell.

I can think of nothing more exciting, yet fraught with risk.  But this is an opportunity–it’s an opportunity that has not existed for several generations of marketers and sales people.  It’s an opportunity for new leaders to emerge, and for profound shifts in the way we engage, serve, and create value in for our customers.  It’s the opportunity to invent new ways of developing and nurturing new relationships, building businesses, and creating success — with our customers, our business partners, our people, and our industries.

Sometimes, I think we confuse what is happening with the “social media effect,”  or technology.  The changes we are talking about are not really about technology or social media, though technology has helped to bring the changes about.  Globalization–global economies, global competition is changing everything.  More and different competition changes everything.  Changing buyers and buyer motivations.  Massive, overwhelming volumes of data, information, and mis-information.  Changing attitudes, shifts in spending power, and much more…..

So much of what was true, or what worked is no longer true and no longer works.

These changes have happened, the train has left the station and is picking up speed.  As sale and marketing professionals we have choices–we can ignore it, and be about as relevant as buggy whips are in modern transportation technology.  We can fight it, resisting it all the way, trying to change it.  Probably with the same result, but costing much more money.  We can think this is about technology, invest in all the latest and greatest tools, possibly achieving some level of success.

Or we can see it as an opportunity and use it as a chance to reinvent our organizations, our profession, and ourselves.  We have the opportunity to challenge all the assumptions about buying, selling, and marketing that are constraining us.

Think of the possibilities:

  • We can abandon the classic marketing/sales model–basically the “marketing catches them, sales skins them model.”  What if sales engaged the customers before marketing, talking to customers about new ways to think about their businesses, then marketing nurtured that relationship, with sales getting involved later to close.  Or does sales even need to close?  We can design customer engagement processes in which marketing and sales people work nimbly together, engaging the customer in different ways.
  • We can engage the customer in asking “how they want to buy, and how we can best support them.”  Some readers may laugh at this, but particularly in major accounts, we have posed this question the customers of a number of clients with overwhelming results—after all, it’s in their interests to have strong support.
  • We can abandon the “dialing for dollars” cold calls, spending a little time researching, narrowing our lists, focusing on high probability customers.
  • We can actually engage the customers in conversations rather than being forced to pitch!
  • ….the possibilities are endless if we just think differently, perhaps changing our preconceived notions of what sales does.

This doesn’t need to be a corporate initiative—it’s one that each sales professional can undertake.  Each of us can rethink what we do, how we do it, how we create value.  Each of us can engage our customers in a different conversation.

It’s an opportunity of a lifetime–don’t miss it!

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  1. Ivano permalink

    At the beginning there was the salesman-worker (the more visit/contact the more orders): a pure sales, with 90% of his time spent talking with the customers. Then, there was the salesman-consultant, 50% sales and 50% engineer. In the last years we have seen the salesman-entrepreneur: call center + sales + field app + customer care + …
    I think the salesman of tomorrow will be a fusion of the sales role + plus the marketing role: the salesman-bizcreator, able to manage the entire process of the business, from lead-generation, to order, to product and strategy writing.
    Thank you Dave for your inspiring posts.

    • Thanks for your nice comment Ivano, it’s always great to hear from you. The role of the sales person is changing more now then at any other time in recent history. Those that grasp the changes and seize the opportunity will be big winners. Those that don’t recognize it………….

      Thanks for your continued participation in the blog, it really helps the quality of the discussion. Regards, Dave

  2. Adam permalink

    The more challenging sales becomes and the more more hard work it takes to be successful the better. I look at this “opportunity of a lifetime” as a chance to prove ourselves and show what we are really made of.

    I’m glad sales isn’t easy. If sales were easy everyone would be doing it.

  3. Sales people of the future will need to be knowledge brokers. You will need to (fully) understand your prospect’s business, industry and needs. Then you will need to be able to differentiate yourself by being able to ask smart questions that (challenge) the prospect. You will also have to demonstrate your knowledge by providng solutions that differentiate you.

    In other words… will need to study and fully understand your product or service and how it fits into the buyers journey.

    If it was easy, they wouldn’t need you…….

    • Todd, it’s always wonderful to see your comments here! The role of sales is changing, too many fail to recognize this and will be displaced. But sales people behaving as you suggest will always thrive–with their customers and for their companies. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Mark Modesti permalink

    I agree. It’s almost like we could call it something other than “sales” at this point. For the right person it’s still one of the most fulfilling careers out there.

    • Mark: Great to hear from you. It’s an interesting point, we actually see it all the time, organizations changing the title from sales to something else—business development manager, account manager, and so forth. Most often in an attempt to distance us from the stigma attached to sales. Yet our behaviors don’t change, customers see that and get smarter. We should be proud of being sales professionals and execute what we do with the highest professional standards (as I know you do so well).

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