The Future of Sales
For the past week I’ve been involved in a conversation on LinkedIn and Clubhouse about the future of sales. It’s been really interesting to hear the different perspectives from salespeople and sales leaders in a variety of industries, looking in on the current status of things from different vantage points. Obviously, every industry is different and there isn’t one right consensus to come to in this discussion… because none of us really know for sure what the future itself is, let alone what the future of sales holds.
But nonetheless, the conversation really got me wondering — what IS the future of sales in our industry?
Have you thought about this question in light of recent events? Admittedly, our industry is being transformed right before our eyes! And though sales are down and sluggish, I’m excited about the future and the evolution our industry has already started — not just with products, but also with services and processes. We have to be open-minded about this evolution and seek out ideas and best practices not only within our industry, but outside our industry as well.
As much as the contract interiors space is a product-centric industry (because we sell...products) and most of our salespeople are product-centric — I’d challenge you to change your mindset and focus on becoming a solutions-centric seller. That means shifting our focus from how we can get this product sold — to focusing on the problems you (and we as an industry) solve for our customers. As we know, right now, there are a lot of problems facing our customers, and the biggest question plaguing them is this: “What will the workplace look like when they bring their employees back to work?”
We have solutions to solve very real problems for our customers right now, including creative design and space flow that go well beyond just selling products. We just have to be creative on how we help our customers solve their newest challenge of organizing their returning employees in a safe and mindful way. Creative problem solving starts with re-thinking our sales process and looking at the future of sales in our industry.
After reviewing my notes from my LinkedIn and Clubhouse conversation, I did a bit of research on this topic and specifically looked outside our industry to develop my thoughts and bring all the ideas into sync. When it comes to the future of sales, here’s what’s important for you to consider as we move forward in 2021:
First, focus on being found, not just finding customers. Let’s be honest, when the pandemic first hit, we all got a lot better using Google and the internet to find the information we’re looking for. According to reports by Hubspot and Marketwatch, there were 3.5 Billion Google Searches per day conducted in 2019, and that number increased to 5.8 Billion per day in 2020. That’s a lot of people looking around the web — and there is no doubt some of them are looking for you, your company, and the products and services you provide.
But what does this mean, to focus on being found? Well, the short answer is to become consistently active on platforms where your customers hang out, and that’s where you get to create and share relevant content with them that goes beyond the products you sell, but focuses on the problems you solve!
For example, stop scrolling around LinkedIn and get engaged in the platform. Share your thoughts, ideas, favorite posts, and research with your followers and potential customers. Next, get involved in the powerful conversations on Clubhouse — it’s invitation-only, so the information within the forum is truly compelling and the people involved on the platform want to be actively involved with others like you. You’ll be amazed at how people help each other on this new platform, offering free insight, and the number of potential clients you can connect with is astounding.
Another option would be to start your own podcast, video cast, or blog. Let your voice be heard! The more you put your words and expertise out there, the more search engines will find you and share your content with others.
The next recommendation is to develop or improve your Digital Selling Skills. Whether you like it or not, digital selling is here to stay even after our customers return to the office, because not all of them are going to return to the office. Additionally, for those that are working in an office, you may not be allowed inside their facility for some time. The bottom line is, the rules of personal contact and preference are changing, and we have to change with them.
So, level up your digital selling skills — become a pro at Zoom, Teams, or whatever platform you use. You also need to get comfortable in front of a camera and start producing and sharing relevant content with your clients, either directly or via social platforms. Develop a quick, fool-proof way to email over information in a visual way — whether it’s product photography, specs, or side-by-side product comparisons. Digital selling takes place quickly, and it’s important to be in front of your customers in a compelling and visually exciting way.
Next, you need to become an Industry Expert. You need to be an undeniably reliable resource of knowledge for your company, your team, colleagues, and your customers, knowing the industry, not just your products. You should be able to have an educated conversation about the impact of Neurodiversity in planning a work environment, and know that biophilia is much more than just adding plants in the workplace. These topics and more relevant ones impact what we do and what we sell.
The best way to keep your finger to the pulse of the industry is to read about what's happening in contract interiors, connect with and follow industry leaders and experts, listen to podcasts, engage in conversations to learn and grow, and ask questions. This is not difficult, but it takes commitment, a commitment to be better tomorrow and to be involved.
And lastly, focus on Solution Selling, not just selling products. I know, we sell products. I get it, we have to sell the products — but we miss out on opportunities every day when we get so focused on products that we miss the opportunity to offer dynamic solutions and solve problems right before our eyes.
For example, rather than just jump right in and start asking about the features a customer wants on the 100 new task chairs they called you about — start asking questions about their business. Ask them, “What’s changing in your business that’s driving the need for a 100 new task chairs?” When you find their pain points and take a look into their everyday problems, it opens up the opportunity for you to shine as the industry expert you are and solve problems beyond just the new task seating.
None of us really know the future of sales in our industry or any industry for that matter, but we must stay vigilant in our strategy to truly serve our customers. I hope my thoughts on the industry are making you think actively about your sales strategy, how you go to market, and what you need to do to improve your connection with customers and WIN more business.
Be sure to join the conversation and visit my blog at www.sidmeadows.com. I’d love to hear your ideas to make 2021 an amazing year for you and your organization!