I am

Sales
manager

HOW INDUSTRY 4.0 WILL DISRUPT YOUR REQUIRED SKILLS SET

I am

Sales
manager

HOW INDUSTRY 4.0 WILL DISRUPT YOUR REQUIRED SKILLS SET

The “old school” sales manager is a company-oriented budget-controlling results-oriented people manager. An Industry 4.0 sales manager is a passionate network-building inspiring leader. Bye, bye, control. Are you ready to change?

Sales is a transaction-oriented job now. Its goal is to find, make and keep customers – to close deals. In industry 4.0 transactions will be automated. Bye, bye, sales? Transactions will happen over the internet, yes. But one question remains: who will initiate the transaction? There will still be humans on the other side of the transaction, who will decide. The issue is, there will be much more of them, ordering smaller amounts that will not leave any margin for the classic call-visit-order-lunch-reorder sales cycle.

Gradually, your sales people will lose the direct relationship with clients. Your company might never ever get in direct touch with them again – even not to capture their automated order. Your company will be part of an ecosystem providing a joint interconnected offer to customers. You might find yourself in an ecosystem that might capture, one day, one or a few big customers. Or you might be in an ecosystem, that captures a million customers in a week, once, and then vanishes. The question is, will your company be part of the right ecosystems that will capture the transactions your company needs in order to be able to create enough value, day in day out? That’s what sales will be about in the next decade. And that’s a dramatic change for sales people. They will have to become the network builders they often are not.

IF SALES WILL CHANGE, SO WILL SALES MANAGEMENT.

The manager who ensures its people are closing enough deals, will have to become the leader who inspires his network builders to get the company in as much of the right networks as possible, for the right reasons and with the right value. Transactions might follow from that point onwards. Their number might explode all of a sudden or slumber for years. The issue is, you will have no direct control of the sales numbers any longer. You will not be able to preach to your team and see the numbers rise some months later. You will have to follow-up whether your team gets your company in the right networks, get the right messages out, and wait.

The worst news is: your team will not be yours any longer. You used to have a couple of people working for you per region. Tomorrow, there will be R&D juniors promoting your company into the right network, or credit controllers turning late payers into loyal fans, or a helpdesk agent in India creating a new customer by resolving the complaint of another customer. There will be sales people all over the place, and you will not be their boss any longer. And yet, the CEO will come and see you about the sales numbers. Most likely, when those numbers are not so great. And the CEO will ask you what you are going to do about that. You will say: “Let’s create a bigger brand, communicate a clearer message, inspire our global staff and see what happens.” If the CEO fires you for this statement, he or she will be on the sinking ship in the Ocean 4.0. About time for you to find a new winning team to work for.

Jan Lagast is managing partner of Forte, European specialists in industrial sales & marketing 4.0. They offer career and team mentoring for sales & marketing managers, executive education to enlighten their bosses, and they help communications managers create brands that are real ecosystem-magnets. Conclusion – they get you ready for the commercial side of industry 4.0.