We are living in a world of constant changes in the business environment. Whether as new business models emerging in a more intensive way, disruptively, simply eliminating traditional business, in a process of creative destruction as described by Joseph Schumpeter or because the business cycle (growth and recession) are shorter and subject to many variables. Even more complex scenarios occur in emerging economies where political factors and institutional voids also gain an important dimension.
Despite of this changing environment, the Sales Executives need to continue delivering results. This task now demands other skills and expertise from these executives than in a not too far past.
But if we can’t avoid the changes and stop the new challenges it is important to be better prepared and understand how they occur.
Technology is one of the important factors of change. For example, technology contributed to the productivity increase of the sales force, with more sophisticated CRM apps, which allow the update, synchronization and tracking of activities with customers in real time through mobiles. In contrast, the technology also allowed customers to seek alternatives to our products and services anywhere in the world with just a few clicks and in a few minutes.
Therefore, the competitive advantage is currently much less linked to the product features itself and much more how the organization as a whole can offer solutions to solve the problems that the customer already identified. If 20 years ago, well made brochures about the products as well as participation in trade-shows helped to develop a relationship with customers, nowadays sales processes have become much more consultative and customized. There were gains not only in quality, but also in complexity in these relationships between customers and suppliers.
Another characteristics of the new times is the pace of business. This pace has been so intense that a new idea or product can quickly become obsolete due to changes in the market in which it is inserted. And if you can´t adapt quickly to meet these customers, they in turn will be quite agile to find a new supplier.
Changes in the economy also collaborate for a scenario even more challenging. Customers are seeking for lower prices and more elastic payment terms during difficult times such as the one we are currently going through. Internally the suppliers have reduced staff, also looking for cost savings, making the Sales Executives be more "hands-on". Tasks that were previously performed by intermediate levels in organizations and which no longer exist due to the crisis, are now also be responsibility of these executives.
The organizational pyramid becomes increasingly flattened and these Sales Executives now also perform more analytical functions. They became responsible for generating the information to the upper levels.
The result is less time spent with their own sales teams, neither for coaching activities or discussions on tactical actions. Even the time spent in the field with the team, building relationship with customer is reduced and just focusing on strategic accounts.
On the other hand, this Sales Executive approaches the highest levels of the internal organization acting as a communication channel between them and the market.
If Marketing Executives provide an analysis of the market from a macro perspective, and in a medium and long term , the Sales Executives work in a more focused approach on the front end (where things happen!), bringing a short term view. Notice that both information is equally important for organizations to take actions to ensure their sustainable longevity.
What is happening in the O & G market reflects a little this situation. M&A processes have become a trend and should completely change the competitive landscape, while some organizations will become even stronger, others will simply disappear. From one day to the other, the leverage you have with a client evaporates and the impact on the Sales Executive and his organization can be quite significant. Predict and anticipate certain movements at this level could be extremely valuable.
So the Sales Executives today need to take responsibilities that go beyond the traditional role of bringing business to the company. As important as generating business is the ability to understand the environment where it belongs through accurate analysis, thus supporting the creation of new strategies.
The knowledge of the market and its constant changes, more precise understanding of its competitors as well as the competitors of your customers and their tactical actions, bearing in mind the mission and vision of the organization, are essential for success today.
However, the fact that there are new demands for this professional does not eliminate other responsibilities inherent to this position, such as leadership and team motivation.
In next posts I will cover the expectations of organizations about these new Sales Executives.