I’m calling on all salespeople to start thinking about how you approach your job, because in a few years’ time, you may be in danger of losing it!
I know it’s a harsh statement to start a blog with, but according to Forrester, of the 4.5 million B2B salespeople in existence today, one million will be net displaced by 2020, particularly ‘order takers’.
The reason? Buyers are more informed and self-sufficient than ever before and don’t need your help as much as they used to.
So what can you do to avoid becoming irrelevant?
1. You’ll need to be able to ‘de-educate’ prospects
Buyers are smart and have access to a wealth of information.
According to a study by the Acquity Group, 94% of business buyers research a product first before making a decision. This can range from online comparisons, customer testimonials, brochures, product overviews and more.
As time goes on, buyers are only going to consume more information before they purchase.
Sadly, not all of this information will be accurate and a good amount probably won’t work in your favor.
To ‘de-educate’ prospects, you’ll need to take an advisory role and figure out where their knowledge is limited or incorrect and set the record straight. This approach of challenging the prospect is difficult to master but the end result is a trusting, strong relationship with your buyer.
You’ll need to avoid calling them out as wrong at all costs, because this will instantly make you seem like a know it all.
Instead, use phrases like “that’s correct to a certain extent but it’s important to bear in mind that” or “that certainly used to be the case but in the current climate…”. This way you disqualify their information but do so without saying that they’re in the wrong.
2. You’ll need to be able to interpret data
Whether you like it or not, data has become an integral part of sales and is definitely here to stay. To be a successful salesperson in the coming years, you’ll need to learn how to leverage data to make more informed decisions.
Do you let your gut make your decisions? Or do you combine your instincts with data-backed insights? Combining your experience and intuition with data is what’s required for the salesperson of tomorrow.
By utilizing data in your selling you will be able to understand which sales activities are working (and which aren’t), which products are effective, where your products are sold and when as well as predict future sales based on previous trends.
If you don’t utilize data though, you’re just another person with an idea, opinion or gut feeling.
3. You’ll need to be a question master!
It’s the questions that a salesperson asks that sets the top talent apart from the rest.
The ability to get under the skin of a buyer and understand their pain points so that you can find a solution will be a common denominator for all salespeople as your buyer will be able to get an explanation of your product from case studies, how to videos and other content.
But, how to videos or case studies can’t ask the right questions to diagnose a buyer’s pain.
Every buyer is different and has unique challenges – this is where the future salesperson will have to spend their time finding out.
4. You’ll need to be able to write, not just talk
Unfortunately, face-to-face communication is slowly being replaced by written communication.
Email, Facebook, live chat and text messaging are replacing (or, already have) the old school face-to-face meeting.
While this is positive in the sense that your market is now not only limited to the places you can travel to, mastering written communications is now a key skill you’ll need to learn.
Every salesperson will need to be able to string a well written, thoughtful message together at every turn.
Bad at spelling? Struggle to write a clear sentence? Waffle too much instead of being to the point?
If you said yes to any of these, you’ll either have to learn or risk being one of the million displaced salespeople.