by Eric Stavola
For years I have been listening, reading, and hearing about our industry’s sales transformation — heck, I think I have even written a few articles on the subject. The sales transformation we were talking about was making the shift from selling hardware (commodity) to selling a service (annuity). However, lately I have been thinking, is that really it? I mean, we all work for or sell for at some level a manufacturer that manufactures hardware. So am I really to think that our industry is transforming away from hardware completely? No, absolutely not. Transformation by definition means a complete or major change in someone's or something's appearance, form, etc.
If I take that definition to sales then it is accurate, but it is not as we have all thought, hardware to commodity. I think it goes much deeper and more specific. Over the past 15 years I have seen many successful sales professionals adjust, adapt, and overcome the challenges of our industry to stay relevant and profitable. Sales transformation to me lies in these distinct steps:
Transform Salespeople to Business People
Businesses and executives today would prefer to work with other business professionals, not salespeople. The other day I was talking to a group that broke out into an argument; half of the group identified themselves as salespeople while the other half said they were consultants. At the end of the day, though, we are all business people who generate revenue, and the more we teach and help our sales staff to identify as business people who generate revenue, the better they will engage into more business conversations with their customers, to better understand their challenges and needs.
Focus on the Outcome, Not the Product or Service (Relevance)
As a copier dealer today, are you relevant? The more I get our reps to focus a conversation with potential or existing clients around what is impacting their business, the more relevant we become. If you think about it everything we sell, from hardware and software to services, can impact a business in six key areas:
Areas of impact:
- Risk & Compliance
The most successful reps I see today are focusing more on driving business outcomes versus simply selling a portfolio. By concentrating more on their customers’ desired outcomes, it allows for a better business conversation around impact and outcomes. When done correctly, this business conversation allows for the rep to position the dealership to deliver multiple services to hit some key performance metrics for the business. The conversation becomes more about the business and needed outcomes vs competition and price.
Simplify our Approach
Most salespeople talk way too much. Research shows that the average salesperson talks more than 81 percent of the time in a selling situation. Maybe we are always talking because we have these 50 to 80-page value prop slide decks for our company. We need to simplify our approach, to simply have a business conversation and see what, if any, alignment there is with our products and services to drive a better outcome for your clients.
How We Approach The Customer is More Important Than What We Sell The Customer
In 2000, the CEO of Blockbuster had an opportunity to buy Netflix for $50 million. He passed. Fast forward to 2016 and Blockbuster is no longer in business and Netflix is worth close to $39 billion. Both companies were selling movies, yet their approach to the customer (end-user experience) was vastly different. How we approach the customer is sometimes more important than what we are selling them. Teach your reps to focus on WHY they do what they do versus WHAT they sell. This different approach will lead to better outcomes for both you and your customers.
Partnership is Meaningless if Not Defined
The goal of a first call today should be to bring value. Part of our sales transformation is that our customers today expect us to collaborate with them, create and develop a plan together. It used to be that our customers would sign, then we would act, and maybe come back to strategize with them. Today that model has been flipped; customers today expect us to strategize with them, act, then they will consider signing. Make sure you are maintaining a level of agility and flexibility to meet the demands and expectations of your customer’s needs.
Eric Stavola is Director of Pre-Sales Engineering at mindSHIFT Technologies. He earned an M.A. in Education from Ball State University and an M.S., Computer Information Systems, from the University of Phoenix. With industry certifications including MCSE, MCSA, NET+ and CDIA+, Eric is a hands-on strategist who brings real-life experience to the table. Prior to joining mindSHIFT, Eric managed IT for major educational institutions and was COO/CIO at a multimillion dollar regional dealership.