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The end of sales as we know it

September 12, 2014

On Successful Workplace, Chad Garrett writes about ‘the death of the enterprise salesman’. He describes the growing sophistication of customers, who undertake far more independent research and no longer rely on the sales interface for information or requirement development.

On this blog, I write extensively about change and in particular how it is impacting the way trading relationships are formed and managed. I agree with Chad’s observations – in fact, I would go further. The pressure from regulators is forcing a new era of honesty and transparency, driving the need for far greater integrity and openness throughout the sales process.

As with all periods of transition, there are teething problems. First, while customers are trying to improve the skills of their teams in researching the market, it is clear that areas such as requirement definition and documenting specifications / scope are still problematic. The frequency of a mismatch between a customer’s perceived needs and a supplier’s capabilities seems to be increasing. Also, this new environment means that many contracts are based on ‘customized ‘wants’ rather than ‘market needs’; that undercuts supplier economies of scale and increases the risk of failure.

As the blog points out, this evolution alters the skill set needed for both promotion to and interaction with the market. The role of holistic opportunity assessment and alignment with capability becomes even more critical and the cycle time for doing it is shorter. Meantime, squeezed by current role and measurement system, sales staff become more desperate to win and the likelihood of poor assessment or over-commitment increases …

Overall, this is just one more perspective that adds to the pressing need for improved commercial judgment and the importance of more disciplined ‘commercial assurance’. Inserting this capability at a much earlier phase of opportunity management will be critical to future success.

I  don’t know whether future marketing staff will have enhanced commercial and contract skills, or commercial and contract staff will have enhanced sales and marketing skills. But I am sure that greater integration of these competencies will be a feature of the rapidly changing market.

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