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Why the future of sales doesn't involve selling

24th Jul 2014
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Is the information age making the traditional role of the salesperson null and void?

Customers already know everything about a brand before they speak to a salesperson. In fact, 57% of their due diligence work has been done before they decide to engage with a brand.

With company websites, competitive comparisons, blogs, social media and forums giving customers an unprecedented amount of advance insight, sales executives are now being encouraged to turn to analytics and plotting customer journeys in order to improve their chances of making future wins.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) and SAP’s latest report ‘Winning at Sales in a Buyer-Empowered World’ suggests that the modern sales person is now “expected to analyse customer interactions to identify high-quality prospects, suggest next-best actions, and provide insights that enable them to deepen customer relationships”, prior to offering them any type of product.

Indeed, 25% of buyers say the ability to help solve business objective is the most important quality in a sales rep, while solving business objectives is a major influence on 72% of decision-makers’ buying decisions.

One solution is to apply data analytics technologies to previous processes, which the HBR / SAP report suggests could help sales teams boost their ability to provide new and impactful insights that “matter to customers at every point in their buying journey, whether they’re industry expertise, customer-business knowledge, or solution expertise”.

The report also suggests that understanding customer journeys gives sales teams more clarity about potential customers’ data points, helping both marketers and sales teams together pinpoint where prospective customers are in their “exploration”—and when and how they can step in to engage them.

"Not so long ago, customers depended on salespeople to help guide them to their purchase. Prospective car buyers relied on the salesman to learn how many horses were in the engine and how many cup holders were in the backseat," says Jamie Anderson, global vice president, product marketing, customer engagement solutions, SAP.

"Today, those customers walk into the dealership with make, model and color picked out and a stack of papers validating exactly what they should pay for that car. The internet has changed the sales cycle, but it doesn't mean that the sales team is out of the game…[it’s important] sales teams don't just serve as a price check at the end of the journey, but as a guide who truly understands their needs, challenges and pain points and will work with them to find the right solution."

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