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Eric Mellet is co-author of a new report published by Econsultancy entitled The Sales Organization of the Future.

The report, which is free to registered Econsultancy users, explores how product-oriented companies need to evolve into value-added services organizations to meet the changing expectations of customers in a business environment which is fundamentally changing. 

I asked Eric about brands leading the way in innovative sales.

Please explain briefly what is driving the need for change in sales management.

Traditional sales management covers everything that enables the offer designed by marketing to “reach” the client. In this respect, Sales has not escaped from the unprecedented mutation that is affecting management in general, and brands in particular.

The consumer, the buyer or the voter is a protean entity whose behavior changes according to circumstances, and who lives and interacts in a continuously changing environment that is getting more and more complex under the dual pressure of global development (cf. globalization) from which they cannot escape, and of the “local condition” that tends to shape their needs and desires. 

In their capacity as an interface between what their organization can supply, and the demands of mutant clients in a digital era of social networks, salespeople have to create and deliver the “Best Unique Experience” together with (and not only for) those who thus become co-creators of the product or service that might appeal to them and attract their loyalty.

Salespeople are no longer, as in the old model, the executors of a marketing plan, however sophisticated it might be, but must more than ever work in a real-life situation to develop a mix that will provide a unique experience for that unique client… while adhering to the specificities of the brand and delivering the same quality standards for each client, every time and everywhere… 

Within this new paradigm, sales must create a qualitative link with its local market and in turn feed pertinent information back into the organization. Digital technology helps to speed up the search and processing of information and subsequently improve client relationships.

As a result, although this new paradigm in which demand overrides supply first of all challenges the way sales are managed, it also has an impact on the entire value chain with a client-centered vision. 

Are there any examples of well known brands that are making this transition successfully?

From IBM to Xerox, including mail-order brands like 3 Suisses, major telephone operators that switched from a public to a private model like Orange, but also companies from the banking or insurance sector… numerous brands have gone through these transitions with greater or less difficulty in the past.

For many of them however, it was a matter of reacting to an extreme situation in which the very foundations of the business and its operation were threatened. What I think is different today is that transformation has become imperative for all, and not only for those who have their back against the wall or who have to act urgently in order not to disappear.

This underlying movement of the “digital wave” is sweeping along all existing organizations in that it affects not only their internal resources and the ties that hold them together and give them meaning, but also the nature of their relationships with the outside world, whether it is with clients or with sub-contractors and all the stakeholders involved in their business pursuit. 

What are the first steps towards engendering cultural change within an organization?

Change, whether it is on an individual or on a corporate scale, always starts with the dawning of a new awareness. Often this awareness may be scattered or latent, and only a few people in the company may be able to put it in words and draw attention to what is as yet only premises drowned in the magma of signals that flow with greater or less difficulty and speed from the outer field to the centers of decision-making.

The salespeople make contact, they are like sensors of what is emerging as new user values among clients, and must be encouraged and trained to report this important information.

It is their agility and mobility that can help the organization to adapt in a way that is not disruptive, but continuous, so that it is not so much reacting or trying to keep control, but rather living in symbiosis with its environment. 

In this new SoLoMoCo (Social-Local-Mobile-Commerce) paradigm, the salesperson’s golden rule remains the quality of client relationships and satisfaction. For this, the following challenges must be met: 

  • My product/service is a useful solution for my client’s development, and I am convinced that I am helping him by concluding this sale. 
  • What proves that my product/service is a useful solution for my client is the fact that I can integrate it into his living surroundings, wherever he is. 
  • I use digital means (mobile phones or tablets) to retrieve and organize all the information on a client or prospect, and prepare myself to create a “co-development partnership” with him or her. 
  • I join my client in the shared system of SoLoMoCo in order to reach my goals.

 In this way, the challenge for the salesperson is to “get out of the product” in order to offer the client a “relational” solution, and to operate with agility in the digital biosphere. 

How much resistance to change is there from traditional salespeople who might find themselves out of a job?

For many of them, the situation is unbearable and extremely stressful. On the one hand, they are faced with new expectations and demands from clients who are often better informed than they are, with a growing gap between generations and therefore also user behaviors…

On the other hand, the organizations that employ them have often underestimated their needs for equipment and training to help them stay “ahead of the pack”.

Their credibility and legitimacy are questioned by the clients and they lose self-confidence, which is an indispensable resource when aiming for performance. It is therefore the salesperson’s added value that is being questioned by the client.

The organization for its part must reconsider its model of recruitment and career mobility, its managerial method and the way it develops individual and collective skills in order to attract, retain and motivate those who turn products and services into… sales figures. 

Who should be reading this report, and what questions does it answer?

This report should first of all interest all those who are concerned by sales issues, i.e. the salespeople themselves. But more in general, in any organization in the digital era where the network is supplanting the pyramid, all stakeholders in the value chain could draw ideas and food for thought from it.

In an emerging model where the Client Experience is more than ever becoming the existential focus of the Brand, this report wants to break out of the silos and in part reconsider the client’s development and impact on the sales function, and the strategic implications that this might have for General Management, Marketing and HR. 

Ryan Sommer

Published 22 February, 2013 by Ryan Sommer

Ryan Sommer is web veteran and recovering expat who contributes to Econsultancy on startups, content marketing and new media. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter, or add him to your circles on Google+

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