From box dropping and networking to customer care professionals, sales teams have evolved and adapted to changing markets and demands
Sales has changed. Forever. As McKinsey’s research points out, the global pandemic forced digital on everyone, including sales, and fundamentally altered how business is done – today, and in the future. That same research adds that for both sellers and buyers, this new reality wrapped in digital is an improvement on the past. It has improved processes, streamlined interactions and made it easier to engage with customers on new playing fields and in more focused ways. According to Kumaran Gopaul, Sales Manager at Turrito Networks, sales is now defined by customer care, building value chains, funnels of engagement and long-term collaborative success.
“Over the past two years a lot has changed,” he adds. “The pandemic was one trigger, but there has been a move towards doing things differently for a while now. Sales has been steadily moving away from the box dropping mentality with most companies realising that it’s become important to dig deep into a client’s business and understand their needs. A move from the sales professional towards a trusted advisor that focuses on the real needs of the client’s business.”
The market is competitive. Customers no longer have to rely on the sales teams at resellers or vendors to get the products and solutions they need. Everything is at their fingertips – a tap, click and order away. This means that the conversation has changed. Clients don’t need sales that drop and run, they want sales to deliver value alongside the products. Differentiation and customer retention today lie in the hands of strategy, service, management and expertise.
“Sales needs to understand the client’s business, and how any solution would fit within the gaps of that business so it delivers measurable value and return on investment to the client,” says Gopaul. “This lifts the role of sales into that of trusted advisor – the expert that provides a comprehensive insight into how products, services and solutions fit across all levels of the business. This includes everything, from security to POPIA to compliance.”
The challenge is to make a concerted move away from the blinkered and narrow approach that defined technology sales in the past and to shift ways of thinking and training towards the role of an advisory CIO. This is a role that puts the salesperson on the same level and platform as the C-suite decision-maker and requires that they have the same industry and technology understanding. This paradigm is already in play, and those teams that can adapt and deliver to these new metrics are those that will thrive.
“Adapting to change has always been the slow part of human nature,” says Gopaul. “Even though this shift has been coming for a while, the pandemic was a tipping point. As clients moved to digital and online, sales had to follow and find new pathways through to client budgets. This is the perfect time to curate new client journeys and to become guides as opposed to catalogue carriers. To build relationships on the foundations of expertise, not golf.”
This may sound flippant, but in a world where networking has been severely curtailed by lockdowns and social distancing, expertise has become the new relationship builder. This is where the business has to showcase technology in new ways and demonstrate how it adds value to the client.
“Most products and solutions are easily available from a multitude of different providers,” says Gopaul. “Customers aren’t beholden to anyone business or technology or model. So, differentiation in sales has become customer and value-focused. This new world of sales is about creating stickiness in solutions, adding in value-driven services and skillsets.”
While the future is still defined by uncertainty, sales has the opportunity to redefine its role within this future. From the in-depth expertise and strategic advisory role of the virtual CIO to the trusted advisor that delivers relevant solutions and services to the customer care professional that creates value in every experience – sales is a richly diverse landscape with plenty of opportunities.
“Cold calling has gone, moved off the table by POPIA and the pandemic, and relationship building dynamics have evolved,” concludes Gopaul. “Now, it’s about finding the stickiness, about accelerating digital through innovative partnerships, and standing out from the crowd.”