Here’s a thing. Have you noticed that astute young sales directors and wise old experienced ones seem in agreement that the ‘art of selling’ has died in grocery? Both types see that our current sales forces are technology-obsessed, process-driven and that their sales skills are diluted across such heinous disciplines as finance and logistics. They would argue that amid this horror show the importance of wowing a buyer and developing a relationship is buried.
The old lags resist learning the new tricks but are dismayed that most buyers no longer fall at their feet when they tell the one about the two nuns in a bath. The dynamic sales dudes’ expertise in other areas, meanwhile, is overtaking and stifling their flair for selling. Whoever you are, it’s not good.
It is now an expectation that our salespeople are finance fiends, supply chain-savvy, consumer-conscious, and sharp on shoppers. Furthermore, in the certain knowledge that the buyers will turn tactical on them, they also need to be canny negotiators. Is there a hope that their communication skills, listening skills and responsiveness are still intact?
Let’s not forget, the ability to sell is the fundamental skill of an account manager. Put simply, selling is presenting something you have to another party in a way that focuses on the benefits to that person, and makes them want it.
Confused as to what skills a salesperson really needs? Well get this: the benefits to the buyer include contributing to their budgetary targets, so financial and mathematical capabilities are in. And this: buyer benefits include stock reduction and inventory investment, so logistics are in. There’s more: buyers need growth so consumer insight and innovations are also in.
Getting it right means adopting an approach that combines your technical expertise and robust negotiation with ‘selling magic’. Separating these skills in capability development is not a solution. The selling, negotiation, planning and finance models all need to work together coherently.
The art of selling is alive and kicking to those who recognise that the buyer’s job has changed, embrace it and incorporate the new skills alongside the old.