Increased complexity of customer journey

Ben Turner, sales director at the Institute of Sales & Marketing Management, explores the new reality of selling

Over the last few years, the role of the salesperson has changed through the increased use of digital channels and social media interactions. These technologies have essentially changed the role of the buyer; throw in the recent recession and the pressures that it has bought, and we are essentially looking at a completely different and new type of buyer.

There has been a raft of information and theory describing this new way of working with buyers. Trigger Selling from Avention, for example, seeks to understand the best time to be speaking to buyers by looking at external environmental factors to help influence buyers at the right time. Challenger from CEB begins to understand the necessary role of a sales professional to be more of an expert than the buyer, adding experience and knowledge that exists beyond the value proposition itself.

Research and understanding of procurement professionals, by BlueSky Performance Improvement, further helps to understand the relationship between buyer and seller, and the new theories on how to interact with them. This has enabled sales professionals to understand the challenges and objectives of procurement professionals, and suggests encouraging interaction rather than resistance.

We’re now in an age when organisation, intelligence and understanding are what make a true sales professional

Then there is the reality that we are not selling to one person – we are selling to multiples, with different personalities, thoughts and agendas. The new buyer explores the market; they are part of networks, have peers and use them for decision-making purposes. Their internal decision-making has grown; buyers are educated and have access to information – they do not need a walking brochure.

So where does this leave the sales professional? Grant Leboff, author of Sticky Marketing, asks the question, what value do you add as a salesperson, not what value do your products or services add, but what do you add? This, built upon by the CEB’s Challenger Model, is turning the role of the salesperson into a different animal.

The new sales professional is not there to “bang down doors”, but to act as a conduit to the buying organisation, understanding the needs of each individual, putting the correct parties in a room to help facilitate the decision. This new buyer has meant the new sales professional is more of a broker, a collaborator, a diplomat, a mediator or an intermediary – their role is no longer one dimensional.

With this brings excitement, interaction and complexity. Gone are the days of the salesman with a Filofax, annual target and gift of the gab. We’re now in an age when organisation, intelligence and understanding are what make a true sales professional. Perhaps there cannot be a more exciting time to be one.