Commentary & Analysis
Why Are Traditional Print Sales People Struggling With Business Development?
Traditional print sales professionals continue to struggle with the business development process and companies of all sizes are trying to figure out their next moves. Building a next generation sales team doesn’t have to be that difficult if you design an effective work flow process.
By Jerry Scher
Published: November 26, 2013
As 2013 comes to a close and each of us considers how well we achieved the goals and objectives we set for the year, we are reminded of the myriad of challenges and obstacles that impacted our level of accomplishments. Throughout this year I have been sharing my thoughts about the specific challenges resulting from the many talent management issues that we cope with. This experience has motivated me to carefully study how the evolving role of the sales professional continuously impacts revenue generation strategies.
While too many companies continue to be taking a “business as usual” approach when it comes to their sales programs (and sales people) there are companies that are acting more proactively and searching for new approaches in their sales program structure as well as their search for the next generation of sales talent. When one studies this issue from a broader perspective, looking at a range of industries (not just printing), it becomes quite clear that this problem is much more wide spread.
The converging forces that appear to be driving the need for change include:
- A dramatic change in buying behavior
- Changing role of the sales professional
- Shrinking markets requiring more business development versus account management
- More sophisticated client/sales consultant relationships
- Technological advances changing transactional buying/selling programs
- Technologies leveraged with marketing and lead generation
- Challenges created by a multi-generational workforce
And while the majority of current print sales people fall into the category of “transactional sellers” primarily focused on the products they sell and not their clients businesses, they lack the competence and motivation to change their selling behavior. But keep in mind, they are basically doing the job you hired them to do and many of them have performed admirably for many years. Unfortunately our industry has dramatically changed (as have so many industries) and the activities that sales people must engage in and competencies that are necessary are different than what we looked for in the past. In fact, so many of your sales people were hired based on an existing “book of business” without knowing how they actually attained their book of business.
Research supports changes
A great deal of research has been conducted to more carefully define the role of the sales person and the competencies they must possess. Traditional sales people were expected to solve technical problems but moving forward more and more clients are looking to their sales people for assistance in solving business problems. In fact they are looking for resources that can assist them in identifying problems that have not been uncovered thus far. This is a far more sophisticated process and requires not only knowledge about an industry but a thorough understanding of their clients business and how they generate revenue/profit. The competencies required to perform in this way are certainly different than what has been required in the past.
In Dan Pink’s book “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others” he does a wonderful job of defining the process of influencing, motivating, convincing and moving others and the different skills/competencies that are required to effectively execute these processes. The author references the difference between Irritation and Agitation. Irritation - challenging people to do something we want them to do. Agitation – challenging people to do something that they want to do. Consider how this differing perspective changes selling behavior. The ability to engage others in a process that assists them in uncovering new opportunities, helping them to define potential outcomes and leveraging strategies that address their needs (and not yours) can lead to exponential growth for both parties. An approach like this requires more sophisticated competencies than found in your traditional, transactional sales type.
If this makes sense to you but you are struggling with how to manage the necessary transition, I would like to offer a few suggestions.
Define Your Talent Management Work Flow
Throughout my work with a diverse group of clients I have continually observed a lack of well-defined processes for attracting, recruiting, hiring and on-boarding “best of class” talent. I’m referring to a well thought out and executed work flow. As an industry we focus heavily on developing efficient workflows for all of our manufacturing process; why not for talent recruitment and management?
The building blocks for acquiring talent and “building your bench” should include clearly defining the eligibility and suitability competencies to look for. Incorporating the use of validated and reliable assessment technology and the ability to conduct highly effective interviews are essential to your success. If you acknowledge that your future success will be dependent upon attracting the necessary talent to execute new and innovative strategies than designing your work flow is a critical component.
So What Competencies Should We Look For?
- Interpersonal Skills – The ability to facilitate and engage others in meaningful dialogue to uncover unforeseen challenges and opportunities. To proactively influence and motivate others to action when appropriate with a client focused mindset.
- Strategic Thinker – The desire and ability to employ a discovery process that considers a range of inhibiting and contributing factors as well facilitating a brainstorming approach. Ability to reflect on different viewpoints while carefully considering the potential consequences of a plan.
- Drive for Results – Take accountability for decision-making; ability to address issues rationally and in an organized manner.
- Innovative – Experiment with different ways of doing things while at the same time remaining focused on the desired objective; continually looking for new ways to accomplish goals.
- Resilience and Perseverance – Maintain a positive attitude even when faced with challenging situations; persist in spite of encountering obstacles or setbacks.
- Technological Proficiency – The ability to leverage a wide range of technological advances and tools.
- Social Networking and Prospecting – The ability to create and promote a digital brand, leverage the process to establish oneself as a sustainable resource and build an effective business development strategy through social networking.
As you carefully define what competencies are important to your organization, you will have to identify the tools you will use to assess candidates so you can effectively predict an appropriate fit specific to each job. Technology is available today to provide extensive information about candidates that relate to behavioral competencies, work place preferences and interests. The ability to gather information about candidates easily and provide in depth, yet easy to understand narratives about candidates is not only available but it is economically feasible.
If you would like to learn about how companies are using Harrison Assessments™ Technology for assessing candidates for recruiting, assisting with career and succession planning as well as developing personalized development programs, reach out to Jerry Scher - firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-931-9291