This interview ran on LinkedIn last week. Naz interviewed me about how where I see sales in the future.
- As you know, Sales is now a primary aspect in any business large or small. My first question is how will Sales change in 5 years’ time?
Sales will continue to become harder over the next five years. Buyers are smarter and need a business case with a clear return on investment before they buy. Business case selling requires products and services to perform at a high level. The days of features, benefits and cool software are dead. There have to be tangible results that the technology delivers. More senior decision makers create a more complex sale. This often lengthens the sales cycle. Sellers must have experience dealing with more senior buyers. This is a good sign for an aging workforce. Grey hair is actually welcomed in the board room where big strategic deals get done.
- Professional business people are always trying to sell their products and services. What impact are sales going to bring from now until 2023?
Selling organizations will continue to work hard to keep their customers. They strive to sell them new, strategic solutions. The cost of selling a new logo can be 3 to 5 times the cost of keeping one. The winners will be those companies that prove an understanding of their clients’ issues and opportunities. They will position their products to create value for them. At the end of the day, they are helping solve problems or growing market share. The losers will be those firms who are selling a commodity. They are a “me too” offering with little strategic value. So they are beat down on price. If you’re strategic and have good products and a sound business case, you actually will have pricing power in the new environment.
- How should one think of sales differently if they want to sell something for the future?
The best salesmen and women are business people first. They need to be adept at understanding their products and services as well as the businesses of their customers. Additionally, they must understand how the company they work for operates. It’s not running after a quota number only. The top salespeople understand the importance of selling good, profitable business. They need to appreciate the fact that their company needs them to sell good business. They must also understand the consequences of not performing. Salespeople need to understand all departments in their company. This includes Product, Operations, Marketing, Support and Finance. It is helpful if sales executives understand how to read a balance sheet. They can see first hand their impact on the company.
- What can we learn from Sales when it comes to selling something now in the technocratic age we are living in?
One thing we can learn from sales is the general health of a business. I have developed a chart that you can use to assess an opportunity you might be considering at a new company.
I like to understand where the company is on the S-curve.
You want to be on the bottom of the curve. If you are beyond the middle of the curve, you won’t be there for exponential growth. I have been there for the ride while I was a member of the management team at Albridge Solutions. The first couple of years were tough sledding, and we almost didn’t make it. We had a $100 million market and no competitors. We experienced the growth part of the curve over the next five years. After some analysis we realized we were approaching the top of the curve. It is here where the nominal growth rate will kick in. The rate is usually in the single digits. You can make a living here, but it is not fun. We decided to sell Albridge to a strategic buyer for more than $300 million and move on.
Once you know the size of the market and where the company is on the S-curve, you need to ask the next two questions.
How long has the company been selling its existing products and services?
What is the company’s revenue?
I would argue that five years or more selling legacy products will start to tell a story. The founders may say they are at the bottom of the S-curve in a big market. Be careful here. In short, they may have sized the market wrong. Or they may have inferior products. Or both. If a company has been around for a long time selling “older” products with weak revenue growth, think twice. You will have limited upside hanging your hat there. Sales is teaching us how to evaluate new job whether you are a salesman or not.
- Sales will never disappear from a marketing perspective. But as automation occurs more and more, do you think the digital elements will have a huge impact in the way people sell their products and services?
Digital selling technology are aids that help move the deal through the sales process. Sales is a team sport and often requires the whole company to be successful. No amount of automation will replace the human elements required to sell effectively. I am describing large, enterprise technology deals. Automation like Salesforce.com are great tools that work as the glue to keep a deal together. They are helpful because these deals take long periods of time. These deals often have a high level of complexity. Sales automation helps keep the moving parts front and center for the salesperson.
About the author:
Christian J. Farber is married to Susan and lives in Tinton Falls, NJ. They live near the shore with their three boys. Chris is a featured and contributing author on many social media platforms including The Huffington Post. Chris has had a long career in Marketing and Sales. He is often described as a visionary thinker. Known for building high-performing marketing and sales teams, Chris has a unique management style. He focuses on the teams he leads and allows them to be the best they can be. Chris led many successful teams and performed transformation work at State Street. Further, he has had success at start-up companies like Albridge Solutions. At Albridge, Chris was an early employee and helped lead the company’s dramatic growth. Albridge was acquired by PNC Bank in 2008. Chris is currently the Chief Marketing Officer for a start-up technology company.