“Sales reps, prioritize a sales agenda over solving a customer’s problem. If organizations don’t change 1 million

B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce by 2020.”       Source:  Forester Research

The Idea: The bar has been raised. Hyper competition, elevated in-store experience requirements, and new value competitors (including higher quality private brands) are some of the pressure points confronting today’s most successful brands.  Sales organizations must learn to be hostage mediators, confronting difficult retailer challenges tactfully because everything’s on the line.

Tomorrow’s best sales organizations will be skilled at unlocking and packaging new value with their customers.  They will be gifted at listening to what is both stated and unstated to optimize their partnerships, and gifted at uncovering new value offsetting price demands while maintaining profitability.  They must possess holistic business skills including:

  1. Offering your customers “uncommon insights” that transform & challenge the customer’s thinking.
  2. The curation and stewardship of organizational assets supporting the customer’s purpose.
  3. Advanced customer analytics and hyper localization – assessing each store or cluster as a business unit.

Tomorrow’s sales leader will be better listeners, critical thinkers, and creators of new business solutions, not just strong at presentation or relationship management.  Companies will discuss mutual purpose, not products.   Trust and fast learning, not persuasion, is the future of sales. 

Attribute 1    Uncommon Insights:  Tomorrow’s leading sales organizations will uncover store specific “real time” consumer trends and offer a global viewpoint on the emerging shopper, innovation, and path to purchase.  Future sales organizations will accurately and holistically understand all the dynamics and strengths of their competitors and will share a distinct vantage point to their customers. 

Today eighty to ninety percent of all data and insight shared with a customer is information they already know.  In the future, the best sales organizations will uncover and share only information that is transformational, emerging, and relevant.  The best will only bring information to their customers which is uncommon, fueling a larger growth blueprint.

Attribute 2    Stewardship of Assets:  The future of sales leadership is the protection and conservation of organizational assets supporting the customer’s purpose.  Sales leaders will serve as ambassadors for the customer within their broader organization.  They will move from customer leader to organizational “advocate” and corporate ambassador gathering new assets to advance their retail customer’s purpose.

This philosophy will allow the customer leader to better steward internal talents, resources, and talent, creating exclusive in-store shopping experiences for the customer and their core consumer.  In the future, if you don’t design solutions that create a shopping trip for your customer, you will no longer be relevant.

Attribute 3    Hyper-Localization: The consumer demands personalized solutions, an entertaining shopping experience, and service. Hyper-competition will lead to hyper-localization, allowing for a prioritization of meeting consumer needs. Manufacturers will assume even broader and deeper ownership of their top retailer and shopper relationships on a per store basis. Every customer and every store is a strategic business unit, requiring a personalized solution.

Sales leaders must be adept at collaborating with their marketing teams (and agencies) on the retailer’s localization initiatives, moving from item optimization to shopper and store rationalization.  You will intimately know your core customer – by retailer and by store – creating an annual business plans on a per store basis. 

The future is here and it is hiring General Managers for every customer job.   Tomorrow’s leaders will critically assess all new investments; embracing the very best of entrepreneurism and strategic business management. 

The future is whole-brain thinking.