There is no doubt that the traditional model of sales (think Arkwright’s in ‘Open All Hours’ or ‘Are You Being Served’) is a dim and distant memory. Take the retail sector as it stands today; online sales as a proportion of total retail sales now represent a fifth, and this is increasing between 1 – 2% each year. In an era when many would prefer to go to the self check-out queue rather than speak to another human being, we must acknowledge that prospective buyers will use online reviews to get past the sales waffle – and ultimately make up their own mind which product best suits their needs.
The changing face of commerce, due mainly to technological development, is causing many firms to rejig, or in some cases completely overhaul their staffing models, including their front lines sales forces.
From the employee’s perspective, for those who work in large organisations, the spectre of restructuring can appear ever present. Some companies seem to be in continuous cycles of redundancy and then hiring, only to revert to making job cuts months later. And when the prevailing winds of commercial success are not favourable, cutting costs by restructuring is surely one of the main go-to strategies, but are there better ways?
Take Conde Nast, the multinational media company; which after reporting a loss of $120m in 2017, slashed its costs across the board but is still haemorrhaging money leading to a loss this year of a further $50m. In addition to selling off publications, the firm has and are continuing to slash the cost of its sales operation as part of a major restructure. While it may seem an easy option to pare down the coal-face of the operation to lower costs, what other approaches could be taken to bolster sales while controlling costs and avoiding the morale devastation caused by continuous restructuring?
Agile Sales Model
In the context of cost saving, sales agility can refer to:
By hiring external/contracted sales staff from the outset, organisations can remove the need to hire full-time individuals, leading to considerable savings and efficiencies within their business operation. Taking this approach means you can increase or decrease your sales presence as needed – based on the skills, experience, and geographical presence required.
The keys to leveraging this method of selling are engaging with third-parties capable of providing a sales function which is commensurate with the skills, knowledge, values, and qualities of your organisation and is consistent in their approach. Having the third-party team is integrated within your business will ensure they grasp the nuances of the products being sold as much as internal staff do.
2. Agile Sales Methodology
The agile approach is centred around the idea that effective businesses need to be able to respond and adapt quickly to be competitive. The original idea came from software development, whereby rather than spending lots of time on design, the process of creation took a more iterative approach, with feedback being sought constantly. While the fundamentals of human psychology and selling remain constant, agile methods can add considerable benefits within the field of sales.
When considering agile sales, it is important to recognise that today’s clients don’t want to be taken through a rigid sales process. Thanks to the internet, customers research intensely before committing to a purchase, and often know a great deal about the features and benefits of the product they are interested in. Therefore, they do not necessarily need a sales patter regarding the specification and advantages of what you sell. An agile approach allows a sales team to review and shift their approach as appropriate. This is achieved by implementing an agile sales methodology, which consists of:
Setting short-term goals (a breakdown of larger goals)
Team stand-ups: a brief and focused team meeting each day to discussed progress towards the set goals
Sales sprints: whereby the sales team will collectively work on a specific set of activities for a limited period (e.g. two weeks). Sprints allow teams to work toward goals and then reflect on the results (and how things could be done better) at the end of the ‘sprint’.
With this approach, while individual changes may appear small, due to the high frequency of feedback and reflection, the impact over time can be considerable.
Sales team virtualisation
According to the office of National Statistics (ONS), over 4.3m workers were home-based in 2017, but despite this, many businesses still doggedly hold on to the notion that staff should be located in a single office space. Whether this is to ensure they are doing their job properly or to encourage interaction and sharing of ideas, the reality is that virtualised sales teams are highly effective. A virtual sales team is one that doesn’t require an office to work from – staff can work from any remote site or at home with the use of Internet-based technologies (e.g. Voice over IP telephony, Skype, and cloud-based CRM systems).
With a remotely dispersed team, not only can you reduce your need for physical office space, you can cater to the needs of clients across the British Isles. Also, the level of staff satisfaction and job enjoyment is often greater as a better home/life balance can be achieved. And it goes without saying that not needing to pay London wages can bring down the overall staffing budget immensely.
The keys to making virtual/remote sales teams work are to:
Implement a CRM which allows the team to have access to the same information, and will provide real-time reporting for management
Encourage regular web-cam conference calls to ensure everyone feels part of the team – this can also be used for Agile stand-up meetings.
Flexible working and team virtualisation also mean you can offer team members the opportunity to work within other departments with the benefits that a) resource can be shared where it is most needed, and b) the salesperson gets a new or deeper perspective on the organisation they work for and the product they sell.
Agile methods and virtual sales teams are just two of the many modern approaches which can bring sales costs back under control – but their benefits are not merely financial. Your business will be able to compete more effectively by being able to switch strategy and resources where and when needed, and you will have a sales team that is empowered, enriched, and motivated.
Reach Revenue works with business owners, leaders and investors to develop high performing sales and marketing teams aligned to the strategic objectives of their business. To find out how we can help you, please call Reach Revenue: 0203 858 8030 e:firstname.lastname@example.org