What does disruption mean to our sales teams (and us)?

Firstly, when over 50 Sales Managers were asked about it at our recent Indicator: Sales Syndicate meetings, everyone said there was a form of disruption going on in their businesses and industries. For most, it isn’t an Uber or AirBNB like disruption, but for some it’s close, for others its longer term – but it affects everyone.

Change, and the pace of change, is everywhere, and it’s speeding up. Think back five years, lots has changed right? Well, in the next five years it’s going to double, treble or even more. How ready are you and your team? You need to adapt!

This isn’t all bad, as it can spell opportunity for those who adapt. There is a race to be won by someone, and that someone needs to be you.

So, where do we as Sales teams start?

Firstly, we need to identify what’s changing. Is it the buyer? Is it the way they buy? (If you’re an Insurance agent right now, all these web-based Insurance products are NOT making your business any easier). Is it the product or service?

Then we need to change our sales conversations so they remain relevant. Is our sales process still aligned with how buyers buy? Do we need to change our qualification processes to expose new or different pain points? Is the buyer more educated? (They are of course). How do we make up extra revenue caused by so many technology products getting cheaper and cheaper?

Changing sales conversations isn’t easy

How do you train a sales person who’s been selling Print Management Systems (printers and photocopiers) to now sell IT services or video conferencing (think any photocopier company); from a rep used to selling radio advertising to now sell digital online advertising or print? (think Fairfax and NZME, who have had to embrace change so much they are merging as there isn’t enough market left for two big players).

This is a whole new world, but for these industries, if these changes aren’t made and well executed, they may not be around in five years, or maybe part of a bigger fish.

Maybe you want to embody and embrace the disruptive conversation by introducing some disruptive insights and align with the challenger model of Sales (Dixon and Adamson)?

Changing these sales conversations often starts with understanding the “new” sales process. Who are the prospects? Is this a familiar industry to you? Are they the same companies you are used to dealing with? Who are the buyers and decision makers within those companies? Are they the same people? Who are your competitors? Are they companies like you, going through the same changes, or newbies? How good are they?

How do your salespeople start these new conversations?

How do they determine pain points and needs? There may be a whole new set of qualification questions to ask to determine buying motivations. What are they? You’re going to need to spell this content out to help your sales people become comfortable enough to start the conversation to move into this “new space”.

How will these processes be measured?

How will you as manager know what conversations are being had, and how effective they are? What’s resonating, what’s not? Or, is your team saying they are having those conversations, but actually sticking with what they are comfortable with? That’s very possible, but you won’t find out until sales DON’T eventuate.

These new processes and conversations need to iterate and evolve. Once you know what’s working and what’s not, you need to adapt the content and process to improve. You won’t get it right first time, after all.

Some useful resources

Have a look at www.qotient.com which is a platform designed to improve sales people’s ability and willingness to have these new “disruptive” conversations – conversations that , if they get them right, will help you win this new segment. (Full disclosure – I have an equity position in this company).

For further stimulation, have a look at the book “The Second Machine Age” by MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, this is all about disruption, and while not focused on its impact on sales, it makes for some very interesting and scary reading.

The winners will be those who embrace change

The winners in these new spaces will be the people and companies that embrace the change, that lead it and convert the change into opportunity. For us to do that as Sales Managers, we need to equip our teams with the content, knowledge, and tools to start and control our interactions (conversations) with our prospects and customers.

It’s up to us, we can choose to be a diehard Taxi company (or Kodak), hoping that Uber or Apple will lose their way and popularity, or we can be leading the change, figuring out how to be the market leader in the new market. You choose.