A stubborn assumption in many companies is that a born salesman can actually sell anything to anyone. Perhaps this statement was true a few years ago when the possibilities of finding out about products were still limited. Today, however, where interested buyers can inform themselves about pretty-much any product, the process of selling has changed. The process from the initial interest to the sale of the product is in the focus of attention as well as the support and care of customers and prospective customers during this process. It is important to know who needs what information and when about a product or service, how the decision is made for or against a purchase, and who ultimately decides whether the products will be bought or not. And also the question of who is influenced by whom during this process has to be included. In short: The entire process of selling has become more complex, which is why careful analysis is so important.
Anyone who deals intensively with the topic of innovation, as I have, will find large gaps in books and technical papers about how to sell new products. Usually one finds information in literature on how to enable sellers in a company to sell the new product as well. But that is not always so easy. Let us remember for a moment the service-station attendants of former times (some of us may have still experienced them …). They were experts in terms of cars and tires, stood there in their blue overalls and were ready to help when filling up the car, and could solve small problems with the car in no time. But that changed when service stations had the idea of selling bread rolls. What would you have thought if the service-station attendant had wiped off his oily hands and handed over a bread roll to you? Would you have had the patience to wait until he had put on a plastic glove to hand over the roll in a more hygienic way? And how would the attendant have answered the question as to whether it is a multigrain or a wholegrain roll?
This example illustrates the effect of fundamentally different product knowledge among shop employees. Maybe that’s the case in your business too. Of course there are many companies that have different product families where the similarities of the products are such that the sales staff find the right words without difficulty for each product. But how do you determine whether a new product is too far away from the original? What did IBM do, for example, when the company switched from hardware to software? Or the first Smarts – were they sold by Daimler sales staff of by Swatch personnel?
When it comes to the proper allocation of products and services to the sales team it is important to take into account not only the product characteristics but also the sales or purchase process. Is it rather short or long? This is where I can see the greatest potential for optimization, as often sales personnel who are used to lengthy sales processes will be forced to make rapid spot sales. What a waste of talent! So, how do you align your team with processes and products? I’ll show you!
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