What’s behind the sales function?

Rodolphe Meynier, April 2022

We hear that selling is an art, that selling is innate, that selling is a science… In short, selling is convincing someone of something: a meeting; a test; a presentation; a bid; a pilot project; a sale; a contract… Behind all this, there are skills and in 2022, we need more and more skills.

In his video, Jean-Pierre Lemaître talks about skills in relation to the company’s strategy.

The skills that you need to master will depend not only on the reality of the market, but also on your strategy. Here are the points that most influence the skills needed to continue selling to new customers, to sell more and to retain paying customers.

The first point: the relationship between demand and supply.

  • When demand is greater than supply, customers are more open, out of obligation, to order what is available. The two skills to master are the ability to direct your actions towards the most profitable customers, qualification, and managing them according to their potential.
  • When the supply is almost equal to the demand, our sales teams must be more attentive to the needs to bring value to the company and be able to reassure the customer that they are making the right choice with us.
  • When the offer becomes much larger than the supply, the sales teams must understand the interlocutors to bring them value in their reality. Therefore, we have to adapt our discourse to each of them. We realize that in a purchase decision we must convince not only the decision maker, but also the influencer and more and more the user. This is what we call “political-decision making“.

Be careful! It would be easy to say that we are currently living in a reality where demand is greater than supply. In fact, the vast majority of our customers, whether SMEs or large multinationals, live with the fact that they cannot supply the demand. The factories are full, or rather the order books are full, because in the factories there is a lack of manpower, materials to produce, drivers to deliver… But this situation is temporary, the mistake would be not to continue to develop the skills of your sales teams, to slow down the sales process optimization projects, to postpone the IT projects that affect sales. This situation is temporary and as soon as it recovers, the companies that will benefit from it are those that have prepared their sales function before the recovery. That is to say, they will have optimized their processes, developed or strengthened their skills, and put in place effective tools to measure and anticipate results.

The second point: Targets according to your strategy.
For this point, let’s take two extremes to illustrate the impact of strategies on skills.

  • You have a strategy of being the cheapest in the market. Your approach should focus on internet sales, inside sales and a few representatives on the road for large accounts. Efficiency is the key, the most sales for the least effort.
  • You have a customer proximity strategy, you need to develop your ability to understand the political-decision making of your customers and have a strategic account management approach, and know how to approach the top executives, the “C-Level”. As you can read in the new book by Frédéric Vendeuvre and Éric Pinard, Key Account Manager: “Développer la relation stratégique et créer de la valeur avec les clients “.

Of course, you will tell me that my descriptions lack skills: knowing how to handle an objection; knowing how to make a powerful speech during the first meeting; knowing how to ask the right questions; knowing how to conclude; knowing how to negotiate; knowing how to keep control; having relational skills; knowing how to listen; rigor; perseverance; optimizing your territory; etc. For me, mastering all these skills is the minimum required in 2022. It’s like knowing your multiplication tables for an engineer.

The only purpose of this table is to get you to think about the skills you will be able to rely on in the short term to reach your objectives and those you will have to develop in the medium and long term.