Traditionally, the role of the salesperson has centred on ideas of persuasion and persistence. Consumers in the past were status-seekers, who had relatively little access to information, limited supply and often bought what they were told to buy; as long as a salesperson was prepared to chip away at their defences.
From the late 1990s, moving into the 21st century, a power shift took place and the customer started to assume a level of control. During this time, the internet came into play and salespeople needed to ask questions and cater to individual needs. As a result, sales training added a strong customer service element.
Now, the role of sales is experiencing another shift, to the age of expertise, consultancy and strategy, resulting in the concept of ‘added value’.
The increased reliance on search engines like Google, coupled with the continued rise of online shopping, has led to a major change in the way consumers operate. More specifically, they come into contact with a salesperson far later in the buying process, having already used the internet to educate themselves on a business and its products.
It is no longer enough for a salesperson to convince someone they have a problem, and that buying a product will solve it. Now, the consumer already knows the problem they are solving and wants real, detailed insight. The key is to offer expert knowledge, which isn’t easily available online, and seem believable while delivering it.
Consumers now see through ‘pitches’ more than in the past and want credible expertise, from a reputable source. A salesperson’s biggest challenge is to convince a potential buyer that they know what they are talking about.
The sales training UK businesses provide must also emphasise strategy, ensuring that modern salespeople are able to adopt a tactical approach. It is important to accept that a power shift has occurred and customers have more power. Strategic salespeople will know this, find a customer’s individual point of view and tailor their message.
Additionally, a strategically minded salesperson will have an understanding of how customers view their brand and products generally, including positive and negative aspects. The will also have an understanding of how competitors are viewed, where their products are better and where they are worse.
It is still possible to influence the way consumers feel about a business or product, but it is crucial to acknowledge their existing stance and address their concerns. Strategic salespeople will know which battles can and cannot be won and steer conversation towards ‘battlegrounds’ that offer the best chance of success.