How to tailor your sales activities to the new selling environment

How to tailor your sales activities to the new selling environment
By Jerry Stapleton, for SBT
If your company has salespeople, you already know that the Internet is changing your life.
If you recognize and embrace the new realities of selling, you will grow stronger. Failing to do so will kill you — if not today, someday.
The model of the single sales channel — especially when that channel is a direct sales force — is an anachronism. Today forward-thinking companies, more than ever before, have turned to multiple channels to reach their markets. To the old reliable direct sales force and resellers, they’re adding telephone-based and Internet-based sales operations. But multiple channels can’t simply be stacked on top of each other; for the most effective results, companies must integrate all those channels so they work together seamlessly, aligning properly with the right customer types.
The right balance among each of those channels is a moving target. Achieving it will most likely require constant fine-tuning.
Deployed properly, however, the direct sales force will not merely survive, it will play a critical role in the new selling environment. How? By remaking itself to focus only on the highest value activities, and shedding all of its old activities to the alternate channels. Too many companies, for example, are still paying direct sales people to do things that could be done better, and virtually for free, by the Internet.
And when we talk about value, we mean mutual value. High-value activities add value to the customer company, your own company, or both. Don’t view high-value activities one-dimensionally, as adding value only to the customer company. In the long term you will both lose.
So what are the highest value activities that should be the domain of the direct sales force, and the lower value activities that should be reserved for other channels? You may be surprised:
As you can see on the chart on the adjacent page, the list of high-value stuff is much shorter. But that doesn’t diminish its importance.
We’re all familiar with the Pareto principle – the notion that 80% of your results comes from 20% of your activity. Often that common-sense notion is captured in an old salesman’s lament: “I know that only 20% of what I’m doing has any real impact – but I don’t know which 20%!”
Now you do. The High-Value Activities that I’ve listed have demonstrated their effectiveness in helping company after company increase the value of their direct sales force, while directing the Low-Value Activities to appropriate alternative channels.
Make those High-Value Activities the focus of your direct sales force. They’re the key to their survival — and yours — in the age of the Internet.
Jerry Stapleton is president of the IBS Group based in Brookfield. He can be reached directly at 414-784-0812. For a copy of the IBS white paper, “From Vendor to Business Resource”, fax your request on letterhead to 414-784-0841.
9-9-1999 Small Business Times, Milwaukee
High-value selling activities

  • High-level business presentations.
  • Knowledge calls.
  • Creating demand.
  • Positioning against the competition.
  • Executive access letters.
  • Developing in-depth knowledge of customer’s business.
  • Analyzing the customer’s organization to identify the true power players.
  • Delivering proposals in the form of a business presentation.
  • Assessing opportunity, quality and relationship potential using objective criteria.
  • Marshalling and deploying your own company’s resources appropriately.
    Low/Medium value activities
  • Demos and product presentations.
  • Needs assessments.
  • Closing deals.
  • Overcoming objections.
  • Most correspondence.
  • Performing in-depth analysis of customer requirements.
  • Looking for a decision-maker.
  • Writing, discussing proposals.
  • Traditional approaches to qualifying prospective accounts.
  • Servicing the account.
  • Negotiating.
  • Most entertainment.
  • Prospecting.
  • Cold calling.
  • More than 30 minutes a day on a computer.
  • Anything related to executing the transaction or basic information flow.

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