An article I wrote was just published by Business Insider: “5 Rules for the Future of Sales.” Through my operational experience at L’Oreal, having had among other posts, Managing Director of the Salon Division in Canada, I retained a very strong interest the sales function. As a brand guy, one knows that there is a natural friction between sales and marketing. One could elegantly phrase it as business building versus brand building. Alternatively, one might reduce it to short versus long term. In these deeply competitive days, however, mixed in with the turmoil of economic pressures, political uncertainty and the destabilization caused by the internet, there is a heightened need to make the salesperson a stronger reflection of the brand, at the same time as being better equipped to answer to the client’s needs.
Sales – a route to customer centricity
For true brand marketers, the key point is that sales — like customer service and social media — is on the front line, in direct contact with the client. Companies are increasingly focusing on becoming “customer centric.” In a survey in the UK by Incite Marketing and Communications, 46% of the 300 companies surveyed cited customer centricity as a top priority. The sales function — along with social media and customer service — are naturally where the rubber hits the road. In a customer centric organization, sales should have direct (and real time) access to the information they need to service the customer.
The future of sales
Here are the five considerations for the sales role of the future, as I expressed them in the Business Insider article:
- Organizations need to reconsider the profile of a salesperson, especially at the recruitment phase. Attitude and ability to adapt to a changing environment will be of paramount importance.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) will take on a whole new level of complexity by having all functions gravitating around the customer. Organizations will need to reorganize data collection to have all data centralized around the customer and accessible by all the need-to-know people in contact with the customer.
- Information and communication must be treated in real-time. Hierarchies will need to be ever flatter and, for many, roles & responsibilities will need to include timeliness.
- Product differentiation is no longer enough. As customers become ever more demanding, brands must find ways to create engaging content — even education — that is genuinely valuable for its customers. Marketing must work in symbiosis with the sales team to deliver such content and value directly to the client.
- With an implicit flattening out of hierarchy and processes, the role of the sales manager must also be rethought. The sales manager’s role should be broadened to enhance his/her team’s networking, facilitate communications as well as helping to curate information and optimize training.
Sales techniques are somewhat universal. However, the salesperson’s personal contact with the client is essential for expressing and communicating the values of the brand. Ultimately and ideally, every person — no matter their function — in the company should represent the brand. But, marketing needs to pay special attention to all those functions that are in direct contact with the client.