updated June 2021
If you are in sales these days, there seems to be more questions than ever:
- When will we go back to in-person selling?
- Does cold calling still work?
- How does personal brand connect with my job as a seller?
- Where can sales professionals focus their attention to be successful?
- Can the selling profession remain the same in a post-pandemic world or is sales dying?
And on and on. Every day it seems like even more questions are coming, but very few answers are popping up.
Luckily, you don’t need answers to surf the waves of change successfully. But you do need to wrap your head around the massive shift that is happening in the sales world.
The New Hyper-Connected World
The world of sales never stands still. Over the years, selling has always evolved as customers, technology, and markets have grown and changed. The challenges that sales people are solving now are vastly different than the ones they were solving a hundred years ago. And now the wheel is turning again, and we’re in the midst of another full shift. You have two options, evolve with it or go the way of the dinosaurs.
It’s easy to blame the Covid pandemic and social distancing for driving this evolution. But they aren’t responsible for the changes in how we buy and sell. Rather, they accelerated existing trends. Digital engagement was already available, and now tools like Zoom, asynchoronous video, and LinkedIn are front and center in our professional engagements.
Our current world continues to become more hyper-connected. We now operate in a context where people are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information from the “always-available” internet. Technology allows us to carry mini-computers in our pockets that connect to billions of bytes of data. Those mini-computers have also led to an explosion of connectivity through social media platforms and digital communication (besides letting us make phone calls).
Forget Sales Pipeline. Think Sales Matrix™
Technology has irrevocably changed how we buy and sell. Which means that the way people make buying decisions has changed. Potential and existing customers in the 21st-century have a wealth of data and connections at their fingertips.
In a hyper-connected world, things are rarely linear and simple. The old sales models are losing their relevance. They assumed a prospect had limited information and limited external influences. In an information-soaked world, a sales person can’t easily lead the prospect through a simple, step-by-step sales process. Sales professionals have to accept that they can’t control the sales conversation like they did in the past.
Now there is a complex web of relationships between the people and information involved in the sales process. This sales matrix™ is a new way to look at moving through sales engagements. It’s a non-linear, 3D network. This is what salespeople have to navigate to be successful.
You might not be sure how the person in “salesperson” fits into a world full of sales automation, CRM systems, and social media. But it’s actually more important than ever to leverage our human capacities. Technology can help, but it’s the human ability to leverage that technology that will be the difference-maker.
We’re a far way from developing computers that can handle the variability and nuances of human engagement. Top salespeople will harness technology to help decipher the sales matrix™. But they will also inject their own creativity and knowledge to drive business forward.
Information Asymmetry Has Disappeared
What will salespeople do, now that the routine activities and transactions can be outsourced to technology? Sales professionals used to hang their hat on the fact that they were great “gatecrashers”. Their job was to get past the defenses of as many prospects as possible. They would engage them in a sales conversation, and get the signature on the dotted line.
Their weapon in this gatecrashing was information. They had access to information that their prospects didn’t. They had solutions that their potential customers didn’t know existed. As a salesperson, that information was the tool they used to justify interrupting prospects. It was what they used to build value during the sales process.
As we’ve already noted, the internet has changed all of that. Information asymmetry, where salespeople had more access than their prospects to insight and information, is a thing of the past. If a potential customer can get all the facts and figures they need from a 30-second Google search, where does that leave the salesperson?
The Sales Sherpa™ Role
These days, if a sales professional relies only on access to information to “build value” for their customers, they will be in the passing lane on the road to obsolescence. People don’t need a salesperson to interrupt their day to share the latest feature or benefit. That is seen as annoying and unprofessional instead of helpful. However, a new opportunity has shown up as prospects have gotten more and more information.
With more information available, people have less attention to spare to digest all of it. Quite simply, prospects don’t have the time, energy, or perspective to use all of the information they have to make better decisions. Because there’s more complexity, they don’t know how to translate that information into something that’s usable and actionable.
What customers are looking for more than ever is someone who can guide their decision-making. Someone who can help them digest and navigate the overwhelming amount of data they have. They need someone that they can trust to help them make the best use of their limited time and attention. They need a Sales Sherpa™ to guide them along the buying journey. That way they can use the information they have effectively and efficiently.
Hyper-Connected Selling describes the new sales environment. It’s clear that the sales professionals who are not only surviving in the new world, but thriving, are focused on three key areas. They are leveraging the massive changes to find roles where they are irreplaceable and well-compensated advisors to their clients.
What do Hyper-Connected Sellers do that others don’t?
1. Leverage Social Selling Technology
Even though connection is a key piece of their process, hyper-connected sellers view technology as a means, not an end. Digital communication allows for a wide range of options when engaging with their networks and influencing prospects and clients. They use the power of online tools to maintain their relationships and stay abreast of what their connections need and want. The power of social selling is a force multiplier that lets them give value to a wider group of people than ever possible before.
2. Harness the Power of a Broad Network
Because most sales engagement is no longer transactional and short-term, they leverage their networking efforts to start and build relationships. They connect with a wide range of prospects, customers, and partners to create a web of influence and opportunity. One-off sales will be relegated to websites, AI, and robots, but humans will still own long-term and relationship-based selling. Wide-ranging networks create a web of connections where they engage over time to become a trusted advisor and a go-to resource. A hyper-connected seller will find opportunities in an increasingly broad environment.
3. Build on a Human Foundation
There is nothing new under the sun. Selling success will still depend on the basics: empathy, creativity, drive. The human element in selling isn’t a feel-good concept, it’s a core piece of the puzzle. Building a relationship requires much more than a social media invite and a marketing automation listing. Knowing when to ask for business is a delicate game. Hyper-connected sellers build their successes on “old-school” sales skills like listening, questioning, and strong inter-personal communication capabilities. Beyond building relationships, they move their prospects forwards toward solutions.
Finding Success in the Hyper-Connected Sales World
Ironically, the most up-to-date (and successful) sales professionals are the ones who have learned to leverage the most traditional foundations of human interaction. Selling is still human to human. Relationships and connections are still of paramount importance. Technology is an integral part of hyper-connected selling, because it allows us to expand and strengthen our fundamental human ties. But it’s a tool. It’s the means to an end. Not the end itself.
If you or your sales team are struggling to wrap your head around the new world of sales, or if you know that there are opportunities that are slipping through the cracks, a new mindset might be in order.
If you can do that, the opportunities are endless.