Six trends shaping the sales industry

Online since 3.03.2016 • Filed under Press Release • From Issue 3 - March 2016 - August 2016 page(s) 32-33
Six trends shaping the sales industry

Gone are the days of having sales staff who depend solely on the gift of the gab to close deals. Today’s sales environment is focused on selling value to customers rather than merely solutions or products, which in itself demands a solid understanding of the customer’s requirements and highly-skilled sales representatives who continue to evolve to stay ahead of the market.

‘TODAY’S sales environment mandates that sales be approached as both an art and a science,’ says Thabo Molefe, Sales and Marketing Director of LexisNexis South Africa. The firm operates in  relatively conservative market, providing content and technology solutions for professionals in legal, corporate, tax, governmental, academic, property and non-profit organisations. To ensure its continued success, Molefe has led a sales transformation that began several months ago and is already beginning to bear fruit with a number of high-value deals under the firm’s belt. Molefe views the following as important trends shaping and shifting the sales industry:

Selling value, not products

‘The focus is now on selling value to customers instead of just selling your products or solutions, and there is a rapid move away from transactional selling. ‘Level 4 value creation forces you to go to the customer and say: “Tell me about your business before I tell you about my product.” From there, you’re forced to go back and look at your product. Is it what the customer needs? If not, what changes can we make to ensure that it is? Things like service and the total brand experience also become critical,’ Molefe insists.

Commoditisation

Increasing competition can lead to price becoming the primary focus for competitors and the key deciding factor for customers. ‘The challenge faced by LexisNexis has been that a lot of our solutions are being sold into markets that are becoming mature and we’re starting to come under price pressure from customers and competitors. For any sales organisation in this situation, the important thing is that you are able to consistently illustrate the value your solutions offer in terms of directly addressing the needs of your customers,’ he points out.

Disintermediation

In many sales environments, the sales person is now being cut out and customers want to go directly to the source. Molefe notes: ‘The information age presents challenges and opportunities for any sales organization because customers may feel they can cut you out completely or have their needs met directly via the internet. Again, the added value of your expertise and insight to customers is key.’

Continuous improvement

Sales skills are premium and must be kept fresh to ensure survival in this cut-throat industry. According to Molefe, this requires an honest look at your sales team to ensure you have the right mix of skills to match your targets and close any gaps. In LexisNexis’ case, the process has involved sales skills assessments; tests of personalities, acumen, interests and temperaments; matching those to suitable customer accounts; plotting skills gaps; and designing a training curriculum to keep sales people performing at their best.

Technology

While sales organisations should embrace technology platforms that support the sales process, there needs to be a balance. ‘Customers don’t want to be treated like numbers but that’s an unfortunate outcome if companies rely too heavily on technology and automation in their sales practices. There’s a delicate balance that needs to be struck,’ Molefe maintains.

Alternative channels

‘With the advent of e-commerce, the gift of the gab doesn’t work. Now it’s about public relations coupled with driving eyeballs to your website, while still talking to customers and interacting with them in new and improved ways that demonstrate a clear understanding of their needs,’ Molefe advises.

By paying attention to these trends and implementing measures to stay ahead of the curve, Molefe believes that sales organisations can begin to reap real benefits and close those coveted deals.

Issue 3 - March 2016 - August 2016

Issue 3 - March 2016 - August 2016

This article was featured on page 32-33 of SABI Magazine Issue 3 - March 2016 - August 2016 .

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