SALES

The Future of Selling

The profession of selling will go through a huge transformation over the next decade.
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Over the past two years I've been working on a set of special reports about the future of the sales profession. My co-author on this project is one of the most respected "thought leaders" in the field, Howard Stevens.

Those special reports are currently available for free on the Chally website (HERE), so if you're interested, you might want to download them (especially since there's no guarantee they'll be free forever.)

Since the future of selling is fairly important aspect of the business world, I thought it might be useful to provide a quick summary of some of the ideas that Howard and I developed in the reports:

1. The Web will make salespeople MORE important.

Conventional wisdom says that the ability of customer to research products and buy them online should make salespeople less important. It turns out that the opposite is the case, and companies are hiring more salespeople than ever.

However, customers expect much more of the salespeople who contact and work with them. Customers now expect salespeople to have a expert's view of the customer's business, act as a manager of some crucial part of the customer's business, and be effective at protecting the customer's interests within the vendor organization.

2: Sales jobs will become further differentiated and specialized.

Conventional wisdom says that the best sales professionals are hard-driving mavericks who can drum up business, develop opportunities, and close deals like crazy. However,  according to Chally's research, there is no "one size fits all" salesperson any longer.

While some sales jobs may demand the stereotypical "go-getter" behavior, other jobs favor employees with less showy strengths, like strong analytical skills, the ability to empathize with customer problems, or a deep understanding of complex business issues.

3. Universities and colleges will offer more courses on selling.

Conventional wisdom is that top sales professionals don't need anything other than a high school diploma (if that) in order to sell. However, because selling is becoming more specialized, U.S. firms alone are spend $7.1 billion on sales training every year.

Given the demand, colleges are now ramping up dozens of sales-oriented business classes, many of which are producing exceptional graduates who "ramp up" 50% faster than the average candidate, and are 35% less likely to leave their employer.

4. Selling will be less of an art and more of a science.

Conventional wisdom says that sales is an art (aka "black magic") that's only measured by your financial results at the end of the quarter or fiscal year. However, sales-oriented technologies have now made it possible to use science to increase sales performance.

For example, using psychological assessment tests, it's now possible to create an accurate map of a salesperson's individual skills, competencies, motivational drivers, work habits and potential for developing new skills. Such metrics make selling (and forecasting sales) more predictable and therefore more manageable.

I could go on, but that's enough to start.

If I were to summarize what I've learned from this project, it's that selling is now going through a revolution that's as significant to the business world as the revolution in marketing was in the 1960s and the revolution in computers was in the 1980s.

I'll keep you posted as I learn more.

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Last updated: Nov 13, 2012

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James was recently named a "Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Master" by Forbes, and his blog has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. His writing has appeared in publications as diverse as Wired, Brandweek, and Men's Health, and he is the author of numerous books, including The Tao of Programming, Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite, and, most recently, Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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