In a recent research project, we interviewed several Canadian Sales leaders, the results of which led us to a revelation…we are in the midst of a Sales and Marketing Revolution!
The sales and marketing landscape is changing. According to the Canadian Marketing Association, “There is a fundamental shift in the sales, marketing and promotions world. This shift has made identifying the customer’s needs a true art form for promotional product salespeople.” Not a believer? Here are three clear signs that we are in the midst of a real Sales Revolution!
1. The Power Lies in the Hands of the Promotional Buyer
2. Promotional Product Salespeople Must Adapt to Survive
3. Shift to Value-Add Solution Selling
Sales Revolution Sign #1: The Power Lies in the Hands of the Promotional Buyer
The promotional industry has become more crowded and competitive with over 6000 Canadian distributors, screen printers, and embroiders selling promotional products today. There is so much choice in the industry today, it’s overwhelming. The promotional suppliers have done an incredible job of expanding their lines with more products, colours and options. If you or your client can’t find it in the latest catalogue, you or your client can source it direct on the internet or from the Orient.
When I started selling promotional products over 16 years ago, it was much easier to; get an appointment, showcase my sample bag of the hottest promotional products and close business in the same meeting. Today, this approach simply doesn’t cut it. Today, customers have the power to ignore you. Often times they even know more about your promotional products than you do. Attention must be earned. After many years of buyers listening to salespeople “show-up and throw-up”, trust has been eroded. Therefore credibility, professionalism and partnerships are more important than ever. As one sales leader puts it, “You have to focus on the customer’s situation and get on their agenda.”
In the marketplace of the Sales Revolution, the power lies in the hands of the promotional buyer. It demands that a promotional product sales professional spends time getting to know their client’s business challenges and needs more intimately than ever before. As a professional you must create a two-way dialogue with your clients and work hard at becoming their strategic partner and not just their order taker.
Sales Revolution Sign #2: Promotional Product Salespeople Must Adapt to Survive
As a promotional product salesperson in today’s tough economy, your work day is hectic to say the least. But are you spending your time on the right revenue generating activities with your ideal profitable clients? One sales leader described it as “All the plates are spinning – just waiting for the crash to happen.” Sales professionals have lots to do, but having the discipline and focus to choose the right priorities and the right clients is what transforms an average promotional product salesperson into a Promotional Sales Expert.
With growth across all industries slowing down, it’s crucial that salespeople take the time to re-group and re-calibrate. You can no longer just ‘wing it’ or be re-active to your client demands. You have to focus your time on getting in front of the right decision makers and truly understand their business needs. “Changing your selling approach is tough, salespeople recognize they should change – but then they retreat to the bunkers, and go back to their same old behaviours to hit their monthly sales quotas.”, as another sales leader commented.
In order to survive and thrive in the Sales Revolution and the tough economy, salespeople must adapt their time management skills and sales methodologies. Is it time for you to transition from a promotional product salesperson or order taker, to a consultative promotional consultant or ultimately a Promotional Sales Expert? To do so, you need to pro-actively understand your client’s business by asking more questions and spending more time listening than talking. The valuable customer intelligence you’ll gain will help you to pro-actively recommend your products as a solution to your client’s business challenges and position you as a consultative promotional expert.
Sales Revolution Sign #3: Shift to Value-Add Solution Selling
The bar has been raised on the value a sales professional must deliver to be competitive. With time at a premium, and the power in the hands of the promotional buyer the ultimate difference in the Sales Revolution is the shift to Value-Add Solution Selling.
To differentiate yourself from your competitors, you have to bring more to the table than just your promotional products – you have to bring real value. Clients are looking for strategic, big picture, out of the box thinking, consultative partners – not order takers. According to Harvey Copeman, President of the CPSA, “You have to intelligently connect the dots for your customers and present them with the right solution based on how their needs connect to your products.”
Great service, good pricing and loyal relationships have become yesterday’s sales standards. Using the Consultative Sales Approach and providing your clients with Value-Add Solutions is a must in the Sales Revolution.
As on sales leader put it, “Early adopters of value selling are gaining market share.” And it’s easier to do than you think – just ask the right questions and then listen. Your prospects and clients have the answers. So, stop selling and start asking questions and listening to the answers so you can intimately understanding their needs, and then work with them to create solution.
So, what does all this mean for the way sales professionals today must approach their clients and prospects? It means that although you may have spent some time in the past giving your sales skills a little sharpen; in order to gain the edge and thrive in the Sales Revolution, you’re going to have to use not just sharper tools, but a whole new toolkit. Is it time for you to invest in yourself and enhance your value, knowledge and credibility as a promotional sales professional?
About the Author:
Lisa Leitch began her sales career, buying promotional products and developing incentive programs as a National Advertising Manager. She then moved to the other side of the desk, selling promotional products to clients like: IBM, Daimler Chrysler, Hershey, Cadbury Beverages and YTV. Today, as President of Teneo, Lisa helps sales teams accelerate their sales performance with a customized blend of sales resources, training and tools.