Enterprise sales

My interest is in competitive advantage and disruptive innovation. So here’s a disruptive look at the sales profession, and a new ‘selling’ model.

Most business executives will agree that >90% of the salespeople that they meet are too incompetent to express the advantages of their product as customer benefits in the customers’ terms, which puts the onus on the customer to work out whether the product applies to them or not.

Procurement is getting more sophisticated. Many salespeople end up merely responding to tenders, with little opportunity to influence the outcome.

Companies are slimming down. Their executives don’t have the time to meet with all of the salespeople they would like to, let alone those who would like to meet them. They particularly don’t have the time to find all of the innovations from small companies that could potentially give them a competitive advantage, so they are missing out.

As globalisation, supply chain fragmentation and product complexity has increased, so the number of products and services to select from has ballooned. Executives have to kiss an ever increasing number of sales frogs to find a sales prince with the right solution for their problem. This all results in a huge amount of wasted time and resource on the part of both buyers and vendors and they might still not find the optimum solution – a M executives * N salesmen problem.

So what if we broke the problem into two – an M*1 and a N*1 problem? Create vendor-free industry forums, probably split by function along the lines of Porters’ value chain, at which executives meet to discuss industry issues. The Forums provide vendor evaluation and comparison services and provide anonymised feedback on the industry issues to the vendors in return. The Forum also looks at and reports on innovations. They could also provide best-practice procurement support services.

Our top-performing salespeople, who are really vendor-provided change agents, swap sides and work for procurement. Their skills are used to find efficiencies and competitive advantages for their employers, with a wide range of pre-assessed products and services to choose from with the assistance of the forums.

Disruption like this only works if every party that remains in the new value system is better off. The buyers will be finding better solutions faster, improving their competitive edge. The vendors can fire their under-performing sales teams and their product teams will be plugged directly into the needs of the industry. Innovators have only one place to go to to find out if there is a market for their ideas and to get advice on what they need to be accepted. The top salespeople get a more fulfilling and business-oriented role doing what they do best.

This structure does what good disruptive innovation always does – take a significant amount of cost out of the system.

Thoughts? And for those who think this will never happen – it’s already started. Although most of the players are still feeling their way towards the solution.