“Stop running towards the digital bling and forgetting about the analogue thing” so warns Anders Sorman-Nilsson, global futurist, innovation strategist and author of the bestselling book Digilogue – How to Win the Digital Minds and Analogue Hearts of Tomorrow’s Customers. It is a warning I happen to agree with, especially when it comes to sales people and the sales process.
Let me explain.
“Digital Disruption” aka “Digital Transformation” is very real. It has changed the way we engage with and serve our customers. They have instant access to information and more control than ever before in the buying process. Purchase decisions are being made before ever speaking to a human being. Bots can now provide customers with product and service information in a way that these customers believe they are speaking to a real human being.
Four Levels of Sales: Digital Transformation is forcing sales leaders to review how it is they compete and reexamine the role of salesperson. In Ariel we describe salespeople operating at one of four levels:
At the Order Taker level, salespeople react to the client. The client asks the salesperson to do something and the salesperson does it brilliantly. Not much value is added to the client.
As a Solution Provider, we are also reactive as a client understands their needs without the salesperson’s involvement. The salesperson can provide a customized solution that may be thoughtful and creative to match the client’s needs.
As a Needs Developer, the salesperson helps the client understand their true needs. Too often the client doesn’t understand or realise what their needs are. At this level, salespeople act as consultants and create value by bringing clarity of the problem and solution to the table. This is a proactive role the salesperson plays in helping define needs. A prerequisite is a trust-based relationship between salesperson and client.
As an Advisor, salespeople add the most value and salespeople can become a key member of the client’s inner circle. The client will turn to the Advisor for advice when they sense trouble. Advisors influence the clients to think longer term and explore new thinking. It requires the highest level of trust for a salesperson to be at this level.
The Extinction of the Reactive.
In the world of digital transformation, the Order Taker and Solution Provider are destined for extinction. Their primary roles as providers of product and service features and benefits are about to be or hav already been, replaced. Clients can find that information from, what they believe are, more reliable and trustworthy sources.
“The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment”
Technology (bots and the like) are cheaper to react to customers need for information. They are more accurate and reliable – they don’t have bad attitude or take time off for illness and rest as human employees do. Neither do they ask for more money or complain because of poor leadership. As leadership guru Warren Bennis once said “The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man, and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment”
The Future of Sales.
What does this mean to the role of a salesperson? The salesperson of the future must go beyond product and service information to win the deal. They need to operate at the proactive levels as Needs Developer and Advisor. Essentially this means they have to become proficient at building trust – the prerequisite to operate at these levels.
The advances in neuroscience have highlighted a number of drawbacks from the traditional approach to building selling capability.