4C THE FUTURE
Foresee future, that’s what your customers expect, that’s what you need to deliver.
In an ever increasing global marketplace, degree to which companies can deliver ongoing value to their customers’ evolving needs, determines their continued success. Value is a personal thing and successful companies discover what value means to their customers quickly, effectively and continuously. The challenge is great and meeting that challenge requires companies to recruit, train, develop and reward their people to deliver current and future value. Skills, knowledge, behaviours and thinking need to be uncovered and honed to enable people to deliver their best for company and their customers.
If that is true, what implication does that have for leadership and senior management teams? The strategies that enable a company to gain and maintain customers are only as effective as people that implement them; so recruiting, training, developing and rewarding those people effectively, is crucial. A phrase commonly used is war on talent; but should it be a battle? What if a company’s talent strategy was such that right people were attracted to rather than fought for?
At frontline of any company is its salesforce. The salesforce of future will need to reconsider way it “sells”. “Tomorrow’s customers won’t just be looking for products they’ll be looking for solutions and services. In order to deliver them, companies will have to know everything about their customer’s organisation and how their products and services touch them… not only will companies have to figure out their customer’s current needs but they will have to work hard to anticipate their future needs as well….it will mean changing people’s mindsets from product centric to customer – service-centric” (1)
Building relationships to sell products is no longer enough. The salesperson of 21@ needs to be a solutions provider and business partner for their customer. The increasing availability and usability of technology by companies means that there is greater transparency of price and product, so companies looking to develop and maintain long term customer loyalty need to transform their saleforces into customer advocates.
Traditional selling methods and their associated skills, will be less relevant, and more emphasis on building trust and rapport, creative thinking, needs analysis and partnership management will deliver value customers expect. In a global context, these skills are even more critical as there are added dimensions of managing global strategies in local markets, understanding cultural differences and dealing with location, time and technological variations. One person may live in UK, have their HQ in Germany and their client base in EMEA, another may live in USA have their HQ in France and their client base in Asia. Effectively managing people and strategies in this context increases need for having right people in right jobs to best serve those differently located customer bases. “Companies will have to burst out of their traditional habits to become true learning organisations.” (1)
To prepare customer advocates of future and evolve current salespeople into customer advocates, there are 4 key areas that companies should focus on
CAPABILITY, COMPATIBILITY, CONNECTIVITY AND CREATIVITY.
CAPABILITY “Skills, knowledge and talents are distinct elements of a person’s performance. The distinction being, that skills and knowledge can be taught whereas talents cannot… Talents are recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behaviour that can be productively applied.” (2) They are a person’s mental filters. This has implications when recruiting and developing salespeople. In order to identify skills and knowledge a customer advocate needs may mean approaching recruitment and training in a different way. If you can’t train talents e.g. being proactive, you need to select for it. Assuming you have selected salespeople with talent and potential how do you determine training, and development that will optimise their talents and uncover their potential.
Firstly identify business outcomes you need your salespeople to achieve. Without business orientated outcomes training and development becomes a “so what?” activity adding no value to individual, company or customer. Secondly, create individual learning paths to optimise current skill and knowledge strengths, minimise weaknesses, develop potential and utilise talent. This may mean no more “sheep dip” training programmes. This may mean no more performance reviews constantly telling someone they need to be more proactive.