- Globalization: Globalization has been around a long, long time. But in the last couple decades, a lot of labor moved overseas because labor was cheaper there. Then, white collar jobs started to follow. As it turns out brains are cheaper there, too. Then, more and more global competitors stepped up and started competing. People around the world aren’t only every bit as smart as you are (wherever you are), they’re also every bit as competitive. Your customers are dealing with this competition. Your company is, too.
- Disintermediation: (The Internet, in some form or fashion, shows up on this list a couple of times). You don’t want to be a newspaper right now. You don’t want to be a book publisher. You don’t want to be a record label. You don’t want to be a commodity. The Internet makes transactions faster and cheaper. It’s (still) disintermediating whole industries. And we’re just paving the cow paths.
- Two Recessions The beginning of this Century started with a serious recession when the tech bubble burst. Not to be outdone, the financial sector decided to remind us just how much things can unravel. These recessions have reinforced a global “scarcity mindset” and a further push for transactional, commoditized business models at all levels. Your clients are under margin press. You might have felt a little margin pressure, too.
- The Rise of Purchasing: Purchasing has grown more powerful. They’re managing global supply chains. They are sometimes paid bonuses on saving their companies money. They are trained to make you feel like a commodity. They’re laser-focused on price. And they’re part of your dream client’s buying committee and decision-making process. Your dealing with purchasing. The salespeople that sell for you customers are also dealing with purchasing.
- Consolidation of Vendors: It’s easier to business with one great partner. It’s difficult to manage a bunch of partners that each do things differently. Plus, consolidation allows you to command lower prices. Companies are consolidating vendors. They’re limiting the number of suppliers they use to a smaller, more manageable number of real Level Four Value Creators.
- Commoditization: You’re not Wal-mart. Your company’s business model isn’t lowest price. But all of the above listed forces make it feel as if the only value you can create is around price. It isn’t true. But if you don’t create a higher level of value, you will surely be treated like a commodity. If you behave like a commodity, the market will agree to treat you like one.
- Your Customer’s Required Financial Performance: Your customers are under pressure to perform financially. And this is no longer something that just a few people in executive management are concerned with; it’s organizational. Even low level stakeholders within your client companies are responsible for a line on the P&L. They’re under greater pressure to perform. They have less time to spend with salespeople that can’t help them. They need Level Four Value Creators, salespeople that can help them improve their results.
- The Internet: Here it is again: The Great Leveler. Your clients can learn as much about you as you can them. You can know more about your prospects with less effort than at any time in history. The tools we’re using have radically reshaped the nature of sales and the nature of our relationships with our clients–and prospects. There is a new tool kit, and you have to adopt and employe it if you are going to succeed.
- Your Customer’s Buying Process (but not as much as you might think): I don’t buy the idea that buyers are finding their own way through the buying process by using the Internet. They’re too busy to spend all of their time researching suppliers. But they are using more formal buying processes. And they’re including more stakeholders, and when they decide to abandon the status quo, they’re doing it with the consensus of more of their team members.
- Required Sales Skill Sets: Sales acumen used to be enough. To sell well, you needed product knowledge, the ability to prospect, the ability to tell a good story, to overcome objections, and to close. You still need to be able to do those things. But they’re not enough to help either you or your clients deal with the preceding nine factors. Now you need the ability to differentiate yourself by the value you create and negotiate to capture some of the value you create. You need deep business acumen, massive leadership skills, and the ability to sell change.
Is there any question that you need to get better? Is there any question that you need to act with urgency? If you’re not working to become a Level Four Value Creator, you’re being left behind.
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