13 Aug How sales organisations should deal with the tech revolution
‘If an organisation wants its salespeople to be the best they can be, for longer, it needs to take an active role in their development’
Technology has changed the way businesses sell to other businesses. You could call it a revolution, but it hasn’t changed everything.
Today’s salespeople use data aggregators powered by artificial intelligence to identify leads. They have automated software to send emails and chatbots to deal with customer queries, so they don’t have to. Their customer relationship management records every interaction with a customer, so they always have the right information at their fingertips.
Technology has totally disrupted the day-to-day life of a salesperson. However, it has not changed the fundamentals of sales: authenticity and relationship building. Sales will always be about the human touch.
I see it first-hand in my community of sales leaders. I saw it during my time in world-class organisations, including LinkedIn. As I run my business, at the same time managing my diagnosis with bipolar disorder, it becomes clearer every day. Organisations cannot rely on technology alone. Their success will depend on how much they value and develop their people.
In my view, sales should be regarded as one of the most desirable professions you can go into, up there with law, banking or consultancy.
Sales has never been more important in driving the progress of businesses. In the tech arena where I operate, sales teams have to satisfy the lofty ambitions for growth of their founders, as well as the desire from venture capitalists and investors to see a return.
The days of the slick, smooth-talking salesman are long gone. The modern business-to-business salesperson is an authority in the industry they sell to. They are confident, authentic and likeable. They are storytellers, bursting with energy and enthusiasm to help and educate their customers.
On top of all of this, they have to manage the change brought about by new technology, while maintaining the right state of mind. They have to be on top of their game at all times. Burnout is no longer an option.
If an organisation wants its salespeople to be the best they can be, for longer, it needs to take an active role in their development. I believe that whatever the amount an organisation invests in developing their top executives, it should be replicated across the whole business, including the sales team.
Everyone in the sales team, from top to bottom, should have a mentor. Training sessions need to be more regular, not only on sales skills, such as handling objections or closing, but also on emotional intelligence, resiliency, empathy and relationship-building. These “soft skills” are often overlooked, but are critical when making a connection with a buyer. Salespeople should receive direct coaching, as opposed to training, on a weekly basis.
There should also be particular emphasis on managing your mind. As someone who has faced challenges with their mental health, I believe this is essential. Salespeople need to be conscious of how they are feeling in their own heads. Are they in the right state of mind to deliver success? Are they looking after their mental wellbeing?
If you are at the top of an organisation, you should be making sure you invest in the best available sales tech. However, are you investing in the development of your salespeople?
Is the technology you bring into your organisation placing an unreasonable expectation on your salespeople? Are you supporting them from a compassionate perspective?
I want to see sales excellence and results, but in a sustainable way. I want the same for everyone. The future of business and our economy depends on it.
This article was first published in Raconteur’s Sales Performance Report in The Times