In a recent Inc. post, Geoffrey James quoted a statement by Gerhard Gschwandtner, publisher of Selling Power magazine, “that within 10 years, as much as 80 percent of the sales situations, currently handled by salespeople, will be handled automatically”. However, he also believes that there will continue to be a need for salespeople in specific situations, where the customer may not be able to identify his own problem, a solution, or an ROI for a purchase.
This means that for the remaining 20%, customers will be looking to their suppliers and sales representatives as resources to assist in providing solutions to help their business vs. just showing up to peddle their wares. This will require salespeople that can understand their customers’ business issues and objectives, have the ability to be problem solvers, and the capability to build long term, personal relationships that bring value.
While this will be bad news for stereotypical, schmoozing, glad handing salespeople, it will create opportunities for businesses to differentiate themselves in their markets, and generate more profitable revenue.
As technology continues to automate and streamline the purchasing process, and time constraints increase with the pace of business today, there is less and less time for customers interact with salespeople that are “ just visiting”. In fact, many organizations set specific limits on sales appointments, and only those salespeople that can help solve problems and bring value to the relationship, are invited and welcomed to participate as a partner.
This environment creates the opportunity for businesses to strategically differentiate themselves from the competition. In many industries, the table stakes of the “game” are price, service, and quality and it is assumed that the majority of competitors in a given space, all have same relative levels of each.
As a result, without differentiation and value creation, the product or service eventually becomes viewed as a commodity, and the primary focus becomes price. When this happens, price levels and profitability deteriorate, larger competitors take advantage of their economies of scale, and smaller competitors get squeezed out of the market. A primary example of this evolution is the commercial printing industry which is now considered a commodity, and has become dominated by larger and larger organizations.
Those businesses that are able to differentiate themselves as solution providers, and can bring value to their customer relationships, will separate themselves from the competition, and as a result, create the opportunity to maintain, and possibly increase, their prices, profitability, and market share on the basis of that value.
Is your business considered a Solution Provider you your customers? If not, now is the time to review your sales strategy and direction, training, and market message, and make the evolution from product peddler to a valued solution provider to protect and grow your business for the future.
If you have any questions, or would like to discuss your organization’s specific issues, please call us at (727) 637-4666, or email me directly at Don@HuttlinAssociates.com.
“A strategy delineates a territory in which a company seeks to be unique.” – Michael Porter
“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” – Michael LeBoeuf
“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.” – Michael Porter
“Trying to do what your competitors are doing but basically a little bit better is probably not going to be the winning strategy. The problem is finding what your competitors wouldn’t even consider doing.” – Jamais Cascio