I am

Sales
reps

SALES REPS 4.0 HAVE TO BE ADVISORS WITH GOOD LISTENING SKILLS

I am

Sales
reps

SALES REPS 4.0 HAVE TO BE ADVISORS WITH GOOD LISTENING SKILLS

The job of the sales rep will change dramatically in Industry 4.0. Internet and peers will help clients to take a decision before they show any interest to your outbound markcom activities.

Up to some years ago, potential B2B clients were stimulated by marketing communications to show a basic sign of potential interest, which turned that potential client into a ‘lead’. Markcom then passed the lead to one of the sales reps, who started a long sales process, starting from informing the potential client all the way towards the final signing of the contract. Tedious. Slow. And, the results of that process heavily depended on the selling skills and the professional follow-up of the sales rep. This mechanism is now fundamentally changing in 4.0.

Nowadays, potential clients are learning from the internet, as well as from their peers and network contacts. Potential clients will keep on surfing the net, comparing potential suppliers from all over the world, until they have almost taken their final decision. At that time, they might call the sales rep, for a final meeting, some final questions, to get reassured they are taking the right decision. This is a major shift for the day-to-day tasks of the most important outward-reaching part of a B2B company.

SALES REPS MIGHT STILL HAVE TO CLOSE, BUT CLIENTS WILL INFORM THEM

A major difference with the past is that clients will know a lot about you, that you do not know about yourself. Clients will have studied the internet and questioned their network about your company, your offering, but also your shareholders, previous collaborators, old customers, etc. This huge package of information will already be at the other side of the negotiation table at the very first visit. The potential client will be asking sales-directing questions, to fill any of the final gaps, and then decide. Ultra-short sales process. And, the results will depend heavily on the listening and advisory skills of the sales rep.

And there is more, the sales rep will have to be well informed, and know all the internet and network gossip before reaching out to a potential customer. That will require time and desk research, so do change the sales financials and provide a financial buffer for such learning. Preferably, the sales rep will also know how to reply to such gossip, and provide the required confidence to close deals. The answers will come from colleague sales reps during internal peer-to-peer learning meetings, so sales reps 4.0 will have to be social team players, rather than effective solo hunters.

High time for a new round of assessments?

Jan Lagast is managing partner of Forte, European specialists in industrial sales & marketing 4.0. Forte offers career and team mentoring for sales & marketing managers, executive education to enlighten their bosses, and help communications managers create strong industrial brands that are real ecosystem-magnets. Forte boosts your readiness for the commercial side of industry 4.0.