I’ve met too many sales people over the past decade who are stuck dreaming about the 90’s. They had large accounts, perhaps covered one large global client. They made big money, have impressive contacts, traveled the world, and won awards. Innovation was high, new technologies drove early adopter buyers to research and seek out differentiating technologies. And they were on the ride side, selling it all. They had it made!
Sales were high because companies were seeking out new technologies that would put them ahead. Perhaps the first restaurant to use pagers was a hit, the first realtor to use a cell phone beat his competition to the sale, and the first company to deploy email changed the way people communicate, gaining an advantage somehow. Sales were strong and margins were good. But it seems as though today’s technology developments are improvements on yesterday’s innovations. They’re faster, cheaper, and in some cases more reliable. Digital cell phones are much clearer than the old analogue, desktops are a fraction of the cost we paid twenty years ago, and the size of mobile computing devices has made it possible to carry the power of yesterday’s mainframe technology on our hip. And with this era of improvement comes commoditization and thin margins.
Commoditization of technology is speeding up and the number of ways to purchase just keeps growing as prices fall. The old days are not coming back, and sitting around wishing, won’t improve your numbers. Expect sales to get harder going forward, margin to grow thinner, and buyers to be smarter. As a sales person, you can’t be coaches anymore, responsible only for bringing in the team. You have to become consultants, bringing knowledge and ideas, and prepared to solve problems; in short, you have to demonstrate that you are the best choice to advise business leaders on the direction to take with technology. The more a sales person dreams about past success the less likely he is to perform in the coming year. Margin can no longer come from product alone, but rather the intellectual capital you bring; ideas that are better than any other, work ethic that out performs your competitor, and creativity. All of this starts with your message; the thing that positions you above the noise and creates an opportunity to demonstrate lasting value.
© 2010, David Stelzl