October 11, 2018, Tom Fournier
I spent over three decades working in the field of sales. I thought I knew sales pretty well, that is until I had an opportunity to lead a seminar as part of the onboarding for an MBA class. During some of the breaks I had students come up to me and ask some questions about a career in sales. I was startled to find myself unprepared to talk about what it meant to work in sales.
I knew this stuff. I did this stuff. I am good at this stuff! I was successful and won awards as a sales professional. I was successful and award winning as a team leader. I was also successful and award winning as the sales director managing both a country and sales leaders with their own teams as well as major account specialists.
It dawned on me that sales, a profession in sales and a successful career in sales was difficult and too complex to describe in a few passing comments. This did get me to think about sales and how to map out my experiences, training and understanding into something that could describe the essentials of a successful sales strategy.
To me, sales is an essential business function. It is one that can take many forms; customers gained through a website, through an inside sales function, by a sales agency, by a company’s own sales people or some combination of the above. But it is a rapidly changing profession, savvy informed buyers have entirely different expectations of their sales resources or even if they feel they need to engage a sales person as compared to a relatively short while ago. Those that once routinely managed their business with a sales person are more often wanting to interact on an entirely different level.
Consider the last car that you purchased or leased, did you wander into any random dealer and seek out a sales person to help you understand the various vehicles, their features and options and how they matched up to your needs? Or did you do your own online research looking at vehicles, options, pricing and reviews so that if you did go into a dealer it was to tell them the make and model that you were going to buy and you were there to negotiate price and delivery? (There are now online options so that you do not even need to engage a dealer!)
What is the evolving role of a sales person in a go to market plan or business strategy? Has the role and expectations of the sales person changed? Have sales shifted to other sales functions? How much more is this going to change? It is all fascinating stuff and something that I am really enjoying exploring.
But it is awfully hard to share in a few remarks at a break. I will have to think on that some more. Maybe an elevator speech? (I can see the eyes rolling!)
Please feel free to share your own thoughts or experiences.