Obviously, the pandemic forced the buyer/seller relationship online and the organizations who survived the best, and are even beginning to now thrive again, are the ones who most quickly adapted and transitioned. The reality is that digitisation was always going to happen – it has been a long anticipated inevitably – and COVID simply accelerated its arrival by about five years.
Unlike many of my peers who believe that selling is going totally inside, I foresee the arrival of a hybrid frontline sales professional, who will totally embrace all the advantages that technology provides but, at the same time, are being prepared for face-face sales events, when their prospect/customer/client requires. But I do believe that those occasions will most likely be reserved for important milestones in the buying process, like the initial exploratory meeting, the final contract negotiations, quarterly business reviews. etc.
So, the question for business captains is not when will sales go back to “normal,” but rather, how quickly can you modernize so you can embrace the future of sales and come out of COVID ready to take on the new, fast, always-online, customer-centric, content-rich, and technology-enabled world of modern buying and selling.
It has been suggested that buyers are now more commercially promiscuous than ever before, and they no longer value long-term relationships with vendors – NOT SO. In responding to the following question: “Thinking about your current list of suppliers, how important is it to create long-term, symbiotic relationships?” 84% said that it was Important and, in fact, 52% suggested that it was very important. (Source: Sandler Research Center 2021)
Another myth making the rounds in recent months is that we are witnessing the death of professional selling as buyers’ preferences for the way they buy change – OBVIOUSLY NOT.
In response to the question, “In your personal experience, do you feel that the relevance/importance of sales professionals to your future purchasing requirements will increase, decrease or stay the same?” 46.1% said that it will stay the same, 43% confirmed it would Increase/significantly increase, and only 9.8% said it would decrease. (Source: Sandler Research Center 2021)
Despite all of this reassuring data – from a seller’s perspective – we should be under no illusion that the buyer/seller relationship is evolving, with the former demonstrating much higher levels of discernment. The reality is that they do not want to be sold to and are even more unwilling than ever to simply be part of the audience rather than part of the process. They are crying out, “Don’t sell to me, understand me!”
Therein lie all the clues that sellers have been searching for – but which the top 5% achievers discovered years ago: These people consult more than sell, as they assist their clients in making sound buying decisions.
It is the ability to understand every aspect of the buyer’s business; to communicate in the same language; to work hard to create a long-term commercial partnership, that is truly symbiotic and key to becoming genuine trusted business advisors.
As I think about the future of selling, I see the era of collaboration continuing and extending.
Where both buyer and seller become customers to one another. This approach has three primary goals for both organizations:
- Minimize short-term risk
- Maximize long-term gain
- Create value by partnering
The bar will continue to be raised as salespeople increase value for their customers, beyond what they can glean from the Internet and social media. Buyers and sellers will leverage the natural synergies that already exist, and jointly seek new ways of being innovative and proactive in creating mutual success.