Charles Darwin suggested that “it is not the Strongest or Most Intelligent that will survive, but those who can best manage change.” There is much truth to this statement regardless of your views on the Darwinian narrative. Change is everywhere. Social media is filled with snippets of Innovations, Technology, Products and Services that are changing our world exponentially. It’s enough to make even the most accomplished among us slightly insignificant. Left behind in a sense.
Every morning when you open Facebook or LinkedIn or just about any other social media platform, it won’t take long before some new idea or product fills your screen and your mind. We live in an era of exponential change. Entire Cities have been built in under seven years and are still rapidly expanding. As proof of this, you only need to look to Dubai and Abu Dabi. I heard someone say once that they have shirts older than Dubai.
I have been a sales leader for over 30 years. For three decades, I have been tasked with recruiting and growing sales talent in one of the most challenging industries in existence. I reported to boards of JSE listed companies on targets of 2 billion ZAR per annum and never missed an annual target for five years running. I am invested in our profession, and I believe I am experienced enough to share the following with you:
As sales leaders, it is our job to meet the ever-changing demands of the sales landscape with innovative, fresh thinking ideas, coupled with a timeless determination that will assist salespeople in advancing their careers, making them and your organisation more successful in the process. It is not an area in which amateurs succeed, and here is what I KNOW to be true: If you want to succeed in sales in any sales environment, you need to: Learn to adapt to change quickly.
To give you an idea of the era I come from, one of my earliest sales jobs was selling AEG Olympia typewriters, long before the internet and email were around. (Long pause for laughter to subside..) In those days I thought a telephone on my office desk was a "The Shit" It was even better when it rang. And yes, I used a typewriter to type out my quotations on pre-printed stationery.
When PC's entered the workforce, I very quickly bought one through the company I was working for and started to teach myself how to use Email, The Internet, and Lotus Notes and 123. It eventually became apparent that I was fortunate that I made that choice. This "Old-School" salesman was open to new ideas, and thankfully so.
I have been extremely fortunate that this mentality has stayed with me throughout my career and has served me well because there has NEVER been a time in human history where the need to adapt to change has been as crucial as it is now, especially in South Africa. While the rest of the world may have been using remote selling in a blended sales process, for us here on the tip of Africa, the pandemic thrust us into the midst of a technological revolution that we thought we had time to prepare for!
Many of the customers and colleagues I have spoken to have even considered alternative careers, as it has become so much more challenging to keep on making that target. If you can relate, you are not alone. It feels more challenging because it IS more challenging. The old way is not as effective as it once was, and the quicker we realise that and respond – the better for us (and our figures)
Agile is no longer a word reserved for project managers, system designers and developers. It's an approach to running a business that every sales leader should get comfortable with.
Agile: The Agile methodology is a way to manage a project by breaking it up into several phases. It involves constant collaboration with stakeholders and continuous improvement at every stage. Once the work begins, teams cycle through a process of planning, executing, and evaluating. This is a mindset that requires frequent renewing and continuous practice.
I have lived long enough to be able to give you give an example after example of people and companies that have been resistant to change and with disastrous consequences.
According to Mckinsey, over 75% of B2B buyers will continue with remote engagement as the preferred choice after Covid-19. Have you heard this statistic? Have you engineered a new client engagement to meet the changing demand?
Scenario 1. Mckinsey and others were wrong, and everything goes back to "normal" and the "way it was" before Covid. What would the outcome of this be? Companies and Salespeople that invested heavily in technology and skillsets to compete in the post-Covid environment with remote engagement will be ok. In fact, in my opinion, they will be even better off than before. Companies and Salespeople who didn't make any significant changes will probably adopt the "I told you so" attitude and go back to doing things the way they were and be no better or worse off, despite perhaps the losses they accumulated during the pandemic.
Scenario 2. Mckinsey and others were right, and over 75% of B2B buyers continue to choose remote engagement over face-to-face meetings post-pandemic. The likely outcome in this scenario will be that the early adopters of the remote engagement skills and techniques will be the companies and salespeople who will be enormously successful and the those who waited to see what would happen will be left behind, wondering what happened and if there is even a chance that they could catch up.
Scenario 3. The researchers were right, but the market dictates the outcome. This is what I believe is most likely to happen. Yes, Buyers will; continue with remote engagement as a preference; however, we will return to a blend of both remote and face-to-face engagement, in which case, once again, the early adopters will have a clear advantage over their competitors. Those that have not made the required changes to their sales team's skill set will find themselves playing catch up or possibly even close down.
If there is one piece of advice that I can give to you, it will be this >>
Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and I wish you all the best in your sales endeavours.
National Sales Manager - The Sales Counsel