The INTERNET has transformed a seller’s market into a buyer’s market—and the role of sales is crucial. It is now time to give salespeople the role they can play: entrepreneurs within the enterprise. They must freely share information and contribute to product and service innovation resulting from being the contacts with customers. Sales—and people who do sales—rarely receive the credit they deserve in companies. That has to change.
Sales has to change
Sales constitute an essential function, the success of which depends on transparency and flexibility. Transparency means information flows in all directions needed for success. And flexibility means no longer being forced from the top down to change behavior but instead obtaining more possibilities from and for those at the bottom. Many small innovative steps yield decisive progress in innovation. Employees offer an essential source of innovation, and their potential is not fully utilized. They are the closest to customers and the production processes. They know and learn what could be done better,differently or in a new way. Their analysis of purchase behavior is crucial to competition. IT helps companies to uncover this treasure trove of knowledge and to evaluate and make use of it.
IT provides and makes available the transparency so that innovation can bottom up. In many cases, innovation is attributable to the wisdom of the many. Appropriate IT applications are the only alternative for rendering this wisdom recordable and usable. They must put the internal employee suggestion system in a systematic and easily evaluated format.The right mindset is essential, since salespeople tend to respond negatively to greater transparency requirements. People are afraid of being monitored, afraid of a management that prefers seeing a half empty glass when it comes to opportunities.
This attitude is obsolete, however, for management and for sales.Greater transparency in sales is not a threat but rather a big opportunity for everyone involved. The more information is available about sales and about opportunities, the more effectively expertise can be transferred among functional units in the company. Greater transparency in sales allows better support from Marketing, for example. That is important. People who do not find out about something affecting them always have to react after the fact instead of acting proactively as it happens.
Salespeople should no longer be forced simply to fill out report forms and feel that their every move is being monitored by IT applications. They need solutions whose transparency and flexibility benefit them and their activities. Only then will sales be strengthened as a company function. Transparency does not mean top down control.
It means information flows in all directions needed for success. And flexibility means not being forced from the top down to change behavior but instead obtaining more possibilities from and for those at the bottom. Steve Jobs showed what is possible if you make people and their requirements the focal point of your efforts. Develop IT products not from the standpoint of their systemic usefulness but rather from the standpoint of the individual user to gain greater transparency and flexibility from IT solutions. Salespeople must think and act as entrepreneurs, taking personal responsibility in freely shaping economic events.