A welcome update on building a sales force in the new economic environment.
The financial meltdown of 2008 claimed many victims, but an area that surely felt intense pressure was the corporate sales force. Every company’s sales force had to adjust to a new market reality. The author of this timely book, an international business consultant who highlights some of her firm’s research into sales organizations, writes that a “new customer profile” started to take shape after the financial crisis. Customers “were less trusting and found heavy selling tactics repulsive...they wanted price and if that was right, then they would look at other key factors.” Crane says, “Effective salespeople now are those that are able to confront and challenge their customers’ thinking and influence them in such a way that changes their minds.” This new requirement, the author says, demands a new kind of salesperson: “It is about a sales force that is enabled with a broader degree of knowledge and skill that can take a strong case to customers and influence them to change their minds about how they do business.” Crane offers important advice to companies, including how to refocus, why a new kind of sales manager is necessary, the importance of systems, keys to developing the right relationship between sales and marketing, and perhaps most importantly, ways to transform not just the sales force but the manner in which the company does business. Rather than serve up a sugarcoated, lightweight primer, Crane delves deeply into the messy, complex world of corporate selling. She strongly lobbies for “embracing transformation from within,” even though she makes clear that there are no easy answers. Of course, making a case for taking action is one thing; executing a plan of action is quite another, so it’s helpful that Crane includes three pertinent case studies at the end of the book to show in detail how business’ transformations can impact sales in today’s market. “Don’t be yesterday’s company in tomorrow’s world,” she urges.
While some business executives may find the author’s assessment sobering if not downright depressing, this book provides the wake-up call many may need to stoke up their sales forces.