I’m halfway through Daniel Pink’s book, “To Sell is Human” and enjoying it immensely for two reasons. First, it’s the book I wished I’d written. I have all these ideas running around in my head so it’s very affirming to see someone else express similar concepts in such vivid detail. It validates so much of what I believe and how I think about the profession of selling. Secondly, the book does a fantastic job of something I’ve been struggling to do lately, which is to articulate the big shift that is taking place right now in the world of sales. I can feel it. I try to warn others about it. But I struggle to explain it. So, thank you Mr. Pink. You’ve emboldened me to press on in my attempts to convert traditional sales pros into what you so artfully call, “non-sales sellers.”
I also recently attended Dreamforce 2015, the giant, global convention for Salesforce.com and it’s users. During a seminar called, “The Evolution of Technology,” I made a note of a powerful prediction. The most important force shaping the future of enterprises and what disturbs C-level managers most is technology. The second most important force is “customers.” Now, just stop and let that sink in for a second. The good news for most of us in sales is whenever you hear the word, “customer,” you can be sure our jobs will be secure for some time to come. The bad news, however, is unless we keep up with technology; we’ll be obsolete by the time the summer Olympics kick off in Rio.
Now, what I’m about to say is super-hard to grasp for most people making a living in sales today. In fact, if you’re in your forties or fifties, odds are high you may have neither the desire nor the willingness to go down this road with me. Feel free to just pass the link to this blog post along to your younger counterparts because they need this info too, and might already be way ahead of me.
I recently heard a factoid stating, in today’s world, a working engineer needs to spend at least 7.5 hours a week for 48 weeks per year reading and learning just to keep pace. So, just because you’ve graduated from college does not mean you’re done studying. It’s simply the reality of the world we live in today. Technology is advancing at an increasingly rapid rate while, at the same time, the half-life of facts is shrinking. I reel in horror when I think about the tens of thousands of sales pros running around the country who have not read a non-fiction book since college. They are literally stuck in the 80’s. Many of them may be working for your company. You might even be one of them. So here is your big wake-up call.
Sales people of the future will look and sound nothing like the “traditional” sales people of today (and yesterday). In fact, since the future of selling is already here, I’m going to use the present tense for the rest of this blog post. The mobile phone is now the most powerful piece of business equipment. Cloud based CRM and analytics tools provide data-driven action steps for sales pros, at their fingertips. Data about your customers, their usage of your products and services, and even their attitudes about their engagement with your company (via social media feeds) are all now, quite literally, in the palm of your hand. Data and analytics for sales teams used to amount to little more than, “What happened.” Thanks to today’s technology, we now know why it happened, what is going to happen next and how to make it happen again. News flash to all you stuck-in-the-80s sales folks out there: data helps you perform better. It helps you be more precise about whom you target and what you target them with. Yes, the future is here now but are you here, too, or are you getting left behind? Here’s a quick test. If you’re using legal pads, Excel spreadsheets, Outlook address book, and your email inbox to manage your customer data, you are getting further behind every day.
In “To Sell is Human,” Daniel Pink says, “What salespeople do and how we do it must change. What an individual does day to day on the job now must stretch across functional boundaries. We are now in an era of non-sales selling.” Salespeople today need to be part I.T. pro, part customer service pro, part marketing pro, and part social media pro.
Most reasonable people would agree when I say the way people sell today has changed a lot in the last 20 or 30 years. What keeps me up at night, however, is how little awareness there is about how much the way we sell has changed in just the last year. Wake up, my friends. You’re in the future!