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Selling has become a lot more complex recently and any sales leader will acknowledge that dynamics, techniques and even the role itself have changed significantly over the past decade. However, that doesn’t mean sales professionals cannot achieve great performance anymore. Quite the contrary!

A really interesting article by the Harvard Business Review gives an overview of the different profiles sales professionals have developed over the years to keep up with the sales evolution.

Let’s have a look at them to find out who is a stellar performer in the present context:

  • Relationship Builders: their focus is to develop strong personal and professional relationships, by committing hard to meeting customers’ every need, preventing tensions in commercial relationships and resolving them when needed.
  • Hard Workers: they are completely dedicated to their job in terms of time — showing up early, staying late, skipping breaks — and of commitment – working hard to hit the best numbers: more calls in an hour, more visits in a week than anyone else on the team.
  • Lone Wolves: their main characteristic is a deep self-confidence in their skills and in their way of doing things.
  • Reactive Problem Solvers: they are similar to the Relationship Builders, from the customers’ standpoint, as they are highly reliable and committed. But unlike them, Reactive Problem Solvers are not as good at building strong relationships as in focusing on post-sales follow-up and in making sure that response to implementation and execution issues is quick and careful.
  • Challengers: they have a deep understanding of their customers’ businesses and needs and use their knowledge to take control of the sales conversation. They are assertive and self-confident and their approach is especially beneficial to customers, since, by discussing and sharing even potentially controversial views, they push their thinking or make them see things from a different perspective.

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Who is outperforming in your opinion nowadays? Predictably, the answer given by the Harvard Business Review is the Challenger type and it’s easy to see why.

Sales professional profiles have evolved because we, as customers, have evolved as well. We are better informed and more empowered than just 10 years ago: before purchasing anything, we’ve probably done our research, checked several sources online, and asked for ratings and assessments from people like us. We’re not at the mercy of the sales people anymore, and the same happens in B2B.

The sales process was a one-to-one approach earlier but now 70% of it unfolds online, and deals can be made by email. In the Information Age, sales professionals have to deliver added value to the selling process and this is where the Challenger profile fits in.

What are their main best practices?

  • First of all, they teach their customers to think differently, give new insight, present new opportunities, make progress toward their goals.
  • They also tailor their sales message to customers, thanks to the understanding of their objectives and value drivers.
  • Finally, they take control of the sales process, knowing exactly where to meet customers on their journey and how to drive them towards a final sale.

sales 5You see, this role is quite a bit different than that of the other profiles. Challengers are more consultative, collaborative and advisory. I presume many of you think that the Relationship Builders still have their say though, and it might be so, provided that they change the nature of their relationship with customers.

Relationship still matters a lot, of course. But if you acquiesce to your customers’ every demand, if your sales conversation is based on convenience and your objective is to keep customers in their comfort zone, then you’re not giving them any added value.

In short, let’s each of us become a Challenger or, at least, let’s borrow from them some characteristics which we can leverage in our business practices overall.

 

 

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If you have any comments, input or observations, feel free to share them here. I’d be happy to know your thoughts.

Written by Luciano Giol