I have been around sales for 42 years and I have seen a lot of change.
I can remember when Neil Rackham, author of the NY Times bestseller “SPIN Selling,” predicted in 2010 that by 2015, the number of sales jobs would decrease from 18 million to only 10 million. With almost every new major advancement in technology, salespeople have been promised that they will soon no longer be needed.
Those predictions were wrong.
As Mary Ann McLaughlin rightly pointed out in The Lost Art of Sales: It’s Time to Get Back to the Basics, the pandemic has shifted the landscape of sales, turning many into order-takers rather than value-creators. But as we move forward, it's essential to not only get back to the basics but to elevate our game to meet the demands of the new, tech-savvy buyer.
The best way to do this is to invest in the development of your sales management because they too, post-pandemic, have lost the interpersonal skills to coach and develop their teams.
The New Age of Sales Management
Managing a sales team in today's world requires a blend of traditional wisdom and modern techniques. Here's how we can build on the foundation Mary Ann laid out and take our sales management to the next level:
1. Embrace Technology, but Don't Rely Solely on It
While tools like ChatGPT can be invaluable for training and role-playing, they should complement, not replace, human interaction. Use AI to refine skills, but ensure your team still values the irreplaceable human touch in sales. At the end of the day, it is still people buying from and selling to people. At least for now.
2. Continuous Learning is Key The sales landscape is constantly changing. Encourage your team to stay updated with the latest industry trends, techniques, and tools. Regular workshops, webinars, and training sessions can keep them at the top of their game. Every week at Butler Street we share tips and tricks/best practices with ChatGPT—raising the whole team’s skills.
3. Focus on Soft Skills Technical know-how is essential, but soft skills like empathy, active listening, effective questioning, call planning, objection handling, and adaptability can set a salesperson apart. This requires practice and coaching. Invest in training that hones these skills, ensuring your team can connect with clients on a deeper level. At Butler Street, one of our Simple Truths is:
“You are defined in the eyes of the customer by the quality of questions you ask.”
4. Sales Management is More Than Numbers While hitting targets is crucial, effective sales management goes beyond that. It's about understanding each team member's strengths and weaknesses, providing them with the right resources and coaching, to guide them towards success.
5. Use AI to Enhance Productivity Tools like ChatGPT can be a game-changer for salespeople. From researching companies and personas to drafting emails to setting reminders and even providing insights on potential leads, AI can streamline tasks, allowing salespeople to focus on what they do best - selling.
6. Reinforce the Importance of Planning Planning is an art that many have forgotten. Regularly review and update sales strategies, ensuring they align with current market conditions and company goals. Never leave your desk, until your next day is planned. Make this a habit!
7. Celebrate Successes and Successful Failures Create a culture where achievements are celebrated, and failures are seen as learning opportunities. This can boost morale and drive your team to constantly strive for excellence. Remember: praise publicly, constructively criticize (coach) privately.
While the basics of sales remain timeless, the methods and tools we use are constantly evolving. It is my belief, that AI will be the biggest change in my lifetime and maybe anyone’s lifetime.
At Butler Street, we believe by blending traditional wisdom of developing soft/interpersonal skills with modern techniques and tools like ChatGPT, we can ensure our sales teams are not only equipped to succeed today but are also prepared for the ever-evolving challenges of tomorrow. Contact us to learn more.