Future of Sales

Mega trends likely to impact sales and strategies to navigate future challenges and opportunities

Looking for Skills to Future-proof Your Sales Organisation? Here’s One Trend You Mustn’t Ignore 

Two dominant strands of selling emerge – Transactional and Complex 

Sales as we have always known it, is undergoing a rapid and dramatic change. Four factors have contributed to this: (1) Shifts in Customer needs (2) Rising B2B buying complexities (3) Changes in buyer behaviours following entry of new generation of younger decision makers (4) Constantly evolving buying criteria.  This has given rise to two dominant strands of selling, edging out almost everything in between

The book Super Trends by Henrik Larsson Broman of Mercuri International Research co-authored with Markus Ejenäs and Peter Siljerud calls this sales trend ‘polarisation of sales logic’. The authors point to a sales trend that shows how all sales have polarised over the last 20 plus years around two distinctive sales logics (i) Transactional Sales Logic (ii) Complex Sales Logic 

Consider the example of a manufacturing company buying consumables, like machine lubricants. This is such a routine purchase that the procurement group in the buyer organisation doesn’t feel the need to talk to any salesperson. They may choose to order online.  According to the authors, this type of purchases are transactional sales. When one takes notice of this sales trend, it is easy to see why Salespeople engaged in transactional sales face a slow extinction.  

Traditional Transactional Sales Logic Dying a Slow Death 

“If customer purchases are routine, the sales rep’s role in the future becomes less and less important and the customer can just as well perform the purchase on her own” say Larsson, Ejenäs and Siljerud

Once you make sense of this sales trend, it is easy to see how, the salesperson is “partially or entirely replaced by digital marketing and sales via e-commerce platforms” in these types of transactional sales processes. The introduction of artificial intelligence and machine learning powered bots to manage these transactions has accelerated this sales trend. And such transactional sales are going up in volume every passing day. 

Demand is More for Complex Sales Logic 

In contrast let’s consider a company looking for a power back up system to reduce downtime in factories located in remote areas. The substantial investment and long-term nature of the capital expenditure, make this a complex buying process.  

When buying requirements are of a “complex, different or tailored character, the customer’s need of qualified advice increases.”  Larsson and his co-authors point out that in this case the sales representative fills an ever-larger role. When you understand this sales trend, you see how the salesperson is much more than just a supplier of information. His advice and ideas add value and he becomes part of the value proposition. Beyond product value, he adds a personal value as an expert professional, who can be counted upon for advisory support. This strand of selling is seen as becoming increasingly dominant and is termed as complex sales logic.

What then happens to sales that fall between these two poles of transactional and complex sales logics?

The Middle Appears to be Losing Both Profits and Steam

A study by Mercuri International Research found that companies getting stranded in the middle segment are less profitable than companies that lie at the extremes. So, a company has to be clear about where its sales logic fits in, on the continuum from transactional sales to complex sales. Companies that are unclear on this, will most likely flounder and lose out on profits and growth.

What skills to acquire and how to structure the sales organisation? 

Leveraging this trend, to future proof your sales will require two clear goals – (i) Identify and migrate transactional sales to digital, while enhancing Customer experience wherever feasible.  (ii) Train and upskill sales teams to become trusted advisors to Customers in respect of complex sales. You can access more content on the future state of sales here

In turbulent times, managers cannot assume that tomorrow will be an extension of today

– Drucker Managing in Turbulent Times –