The traditional role of sales rep as provider of information is obsolete. That role got outsourced to Google because it’s a lot faster and easier that way.
If customers can find the information they want using a Google search, why would they ever contact a sales rep? If it’s accessible via Google, they don’t need you. In fact, if it’s accessible via Google or from your website or from a competitor’s website, they don’t want you. They’ll correctly assume that all you’ll do is burn more of their time, and there’s not enough of that to go around as it is.
Here’s a novel thought… put yourself in your customer’s shoes. In other words, think, work and act like a business manager and consider some common themes that appear among every business manager’s performance objectives:
- Get more done
- Consume fewer resources (people, equipment, time, money, etc.)
- Increase quality
- Improve the bottom line (save money, make money or both)
Given these common themes, we as sales professionals should package our personal value to match. Here’s an outline for the sales job that can help make that happen:
- Research – Get good at finding what’s hard to find. Concentrate on understanding what the customer needs to know to solve their toughest problems, and then invest the time and effort with the search engines, in-depth industry publications, blogs, etc. to get the answers before the customer does. It really doesn’t matter if your products and services are or are not directly involved. In time, your ability to dig out answers to the tough questions will enhance your value, and you’ll get the orders.
- Organize/Package – Since your research deals with complex issues and questions, your answers will also tend to be complex. Practice and get good at packaging your research such that it’s simple, concise and easy to understand. (The Elements of Style is an excellent starting point to improve your skills in this area.)
- Orchestrate/Coordinate – Even after all your research and packaging, information is still useless until successfully applied. Get good at developing comprehensive implementation plans. Don’t force your customer to burn his or her time figuring out how to successfully apply the intelligence you provide.
- Build a Business Case – Clearly document how the customer will save and/or make money, and how much money the customer will save and/or make. Whatever their SIC code, they’re all in the money-making business. Show ’em the money.
If the above four items don’t look like they belong among a set of traditional sales rep objectives, that’s because they don’t. Many sales professionals can’t or won’t do this kind of work. It is the kind of work, however, that your customers need. It’s what the reps they regularly buy from will do.