The Idea:  The last six months has elevated the stakes and the role of the sales process with all companies.  The depth and quality of partnerships matter more than ever before, so what are the new behaviors, capabilities, and mindsets of future elite sales organizations?

I recently produced a webinar with Jason Reiser, former Senior Merchant of Dollar General. We discussed his personal insights and utilized my newest research into why elite sales organizations THINK, ACT, & ENGAGE DIFFERENTLY than most.

We discussed the skills, capabilities, and mindsets of tomorrow’s highest performing sales organizations, and the best practices from some of today’s most experiential leaders.  The full webinar, presented by Mack Elevation, can be watched on-demand here.

We are living in a hyper-competitive world where it’s very difficult to maintain a competitive advantage.  With increased ambiguity and uncertainty, you must ensure you are even more relevant and coachable. Sales leaders are now managing a diverse, hybrid set of roles.  They are leading an enterprise and an ecosystem of internal assets and cross functional relationships.  You must master a new set of diverse skills.

Sales leaders are now band leaders, assessing product fit and real time predictive analytics while co-creating next generation innovative ideas. They maximize their interactions by championing the fundamentals with their customers.  You must be skilled at drawing out inspiration, driving execution, and leading change with your company as well as the customer.

The very best sales organizations embody three skills. They operate from a (GM) general management mindset, considering their own P&L requirements and the financial needs of the partners.  They think bigger picture by expanding relationships and selling purpose and vision, not just products.

Secondly, the top sales organizations are experiential storytellers and work very closely with their marketing departments and customers with the objective of co-authoring future innovations.   They creatively negotiate and are not afraid to engage in difficult financial discussion with their customers.  On the contrary, they embrace them as opportunities to strength the partnership and establish trust. These special organizations have learned to transition from giving presentations to facilitating nuanced discussions. They have honed an ability to assess both stated and unstated customer needs.

Thirdly, elite sales organizations have moved away from the “brick and mortar versus digital” debate and embraced a new mindset of holistic commerce, a true omni-channel. They think about revenue seamlessly and their structure and resources are flexible, aligning with their customer’s morphing needs and agenda.

Honesty and empathy are the core of all healthy relationships. Knowing you can count on a partnership provides fluidity in even the most volatile times. Enduring partnerships are grounded in shared mutual investment, transparency, and healthy debate between both parties. So why then do 8-of-10 relationships break-down due to an absence of trust, becoming transactional?

Setting expectations with a partner is essential, as it establishes a target to work towards together.  I have found in my own research that elite sales leaders serve as ambassadors for both the customer and their own organization, helping both sides better understand their mutual needs.  This is a unique set of collaboration skills that very few companies master.

Reiser reminded the industry that buyers assess their business through the filter of their own P&L and the eyes of their core customer.  Prior to every big customer meeting ask yourself three exceedingly simple questions:

  • What is working?
  • What is not working?
  • What is next?

The importance of honesty was also highlighted by Reiser: “if you want to be unique, be candid and courageous about your strengths and weaknesses as a company.”

Are you truly in alignment with your best retail customers?  Reiser suggests a simple question that encourages companies to think more honestly about their retailer relationships if they feel communication and alignment is breaking down.  He recommends that companies think through the question, “how would we act differently if we were one company?” According to Reiser, “in the highest performing supplier relationships you cannot tell where one company ends and the other begins … The most valuable suppliers have mastered the art of creating exclusive programs for their retail partners.  A customized, tailored solution is magical and inspiring to everyone involved.  The retailer, supplier, and consumer benefit from this level of creativity.”

Candor and relevance have never been more important than right now. It is essential that sales organizations take off their mask and be more transparent.  Are you comfortable sharing the unfiltered truth?