The Exciting Future of Sales is very bright for top producing sales representatives who can serve as a Trusted Advisor for their clients. Does this mean that if you are not perceived as a trusted advisor, there is not a bright future for you in sales? The short answer is Yes.
First, let’s define a professional sales representative. A professional sales representative who is capable of becoming a trusted advisor does not:
- Misrepresent their company’s products or services.
- Does not tell “little white lies” about their products or services.
- Does not attempt to sell to a customer who will not benefit from the product or service.
- Does not make claims that are not true.
- Will walk away from a sale if it is not in the best interest of either the customer or the representative’s company.
- Does not assert that they are salaried when they receive commissions or bonuses for attaining sales goals.
- Does not promise anything that cannot be put in writing.
- Does not sell for a company that tells them that they must do ‘anything it takes’ to make a sale without defining what that means.
So what is a trusted advisor? The Trusted Advisor by David H. Master, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford offers the best description of a Trusted Advisor I have ever read. While this book breaks the goal of being a trusted advisor into three levels, “it is the third level that is the pinnacle of being recognized as such. This is the level in which virtually all issues, personal and professional are open to discussion and exploration. The trusted advisor is the person the client turns to when a problem first arises, often in times of great urgency: a crisis, a change, a triumph, or a defeat.”
There is no need today for transactional salespeople. Complex sales require those who have mastered different skills including negotiation, strategic and complex thinking, empathy, deep product knowledge, innovation, and a team approach to satisfying customer challenges.
The recognition of being a trusted adviser is vital if a sales professional intends to have a sales job in the future. Virtually all products and services purchased today will be made by buyers who don’t need a sales person to persuade them to buy because they can easily make the right decision by purchasing online. They have done their homework and have used big data to help them make an informed decision.
We realize that there are many salespeople and sales leaders who do not believe this to be true, but the reality is that most sales positions are no longer needed. 22% of the 4.5 million B2B sales agents now in the United States, will lose their jobs to e-commerce by 2020. This projection is from Andy Hoar, a Forrester, e-business analyst. Other analysts have projected that 95% of salespeople will be replaced with lines of code within five years.
Most salespeople do not want to hear this and claim that it is just not true. But, stop and think about it. What do salespeople offer today that buyers need? In the past, buyers wanted information about the products/services they wanted to buy, and they would interview 3 or 4 salespeople to learn how to separate the peanut butter from the jelly. Today, most buyers know more about the products/services they want to buy than salespeople do.
Other sales professionals insist that the relationship they have with their customers is vital. To a certain extent, this is true. But, the nature of the relationship has changed. The previous relationship between wining and dining, giving tickets to the ball game, and other signs of appreciation have run its course and are forbidden by many companies. Buyers no longer love Willy Loman
Top Performing Salespeople today are in demand as trusted advisors. They are the resource to which senior managers turn when faced with vital decisions about strategy and tactics necessary to help them change direction, design better products, or to gain a market advantage. Buyers don’t view them as someone who will buy them lunch.
These Top Producers are dependent on support from within their company to help them develop products or services that fit specific needs. They spend most of their time working strategically with their client’s top management. They are supported by customer service representatives, assistants, and product specialists who help them craft meaningful solutions for clients.
You might be among those who ask who will do the prospecting, who will set appointments, and who will develop new business? Well, it won’t be salespeople. These functions will be performed by AI and Machine Learning. Top Performers will be supported by assistants who put them in the position to succeed. They will not spend hours entering info into a CRM. They will not make prospecting calls. They will not generate leads. They will not set appointments. Systems and Support will do that for the top producer.
Top Producers who are Trusted Advisors will play a vital role in the buying process. The marketing process and automated systems will put them in the position to do so. The Exciting Future of Sales is here today, and it’s going to get better.
You can learn more by reading The Trusted Advisor by David H. Maister and Charles Green. Amazon carries it. (And you don’t have to talk to a sales rep. to buy it.)
Harrison Greene is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Unique Selling Systems. His blog is TheExcitingFutureofSales.com. He lives in Lake Nona, Florida.