The evolution of sales techniques: the modern rep’s role and tech-driven change

February 22, 2021
June 26, 2023
Learning And Development

Technology has changed the way we do everything, and sales is no exception.

Yet sales has had more of a rebrand than other industries. The stereotypical old-school salesman - and all the negative traits associated with it - has given sales a bad name. People associate it with endless unwanted cold calling and commission-hungry salesmen tricking their customers into paying more and getting less.

It seems even though we are still selling and buying as much as ever, we’re reluctant to accept that’s what we’re doing, with more people adopting titles such as Account Executive or Business Development Manager all to escape the damning label. Old school sales strategy was more about volume: quantity over quality.

Now with more choice and more power in the hands of the buyer, there’s been a necessary reversal. Some suggest all this tech will spell the eventual extinction of the salesperson, but until robots replace us all, all we really need is a rebrand. The New School of Sales focuses on how you deliver bespoke and tailored solutions for your buyer. Below we look at some of the main changes, how they've affected the industry, and how we as salespeople can adapt and restore sales’ good name.

How buyers became spoilt for choice: more options and more information

With the growth of the world wide web, social media and the range of tools in the market, the sales landscape has changed from both sides. There's more competition to sell and a deluge of information now available to the buyer.

Of course, it means that buyers can be better informed about what’s on the market, but without the knowledge to apply all that research, it can be overwhelming. This necessitates a shift in the role of the salesperson, rather than making them obsolete. The seller must become the trusted advisor that can create a bespoke solution to the buyer’s needs. This means three main things for the salesperson:

Three things sales reps need to become trusted client advisors.
  • Know Your Client: Far from the days when cold callers would dial up countless numbers without really knowing who was on the other end of the phone; now you’ve got to understand your buyer’s market, their pain points, their timeframes, basically everything down to their favourite colour. That shows that you can diagnose their problem and therefore prescribe the perfect solution.
  • It also helps build a relationship of trust with the buyer, as you’ve spent time understanding their needs, and aren’t just trying to flog your wares to the highest bidder.
  • Know Your Product: If anyone can Google your brand and scroll through your website, you need to know the product inside-out, take that info and explain it clearly. Most importantly, you need to apply it to your customers’ use-cases. To be that trusted advisor, you’ve got to know what you’re selling, and how it sits in the market.
  • Communication Is Key: You can give yourself a pat on the back for doing all your research but unless you can effectively communicate all of that in a way that’s understood and appealing to the buyer, then a pat on the back is all it’s going to be. The likelihood is that they’re going to be getting approached by loads of other people at the same time, so you have to persuade them that yours is the product worth buying.

Seems like a lot but there are crafty ways that can help salespeople pull all of these in for a client call. That really comes down to your tech stack and understanding of it. Wouldn’t it be great if your product and client research lived in a well-ordered CRM or knowledge base? Ideally one that is easily accessible, even when you’re on a call.

That’s where HowNow’s Chrome Extension can be a real lifesaver, because it lives in all the applications you normally use. And it’s down to you to teach reps how to leverage these tools, but also to give them the right soft skills. Presentation and communication techniques are still indispensable despite the advancements of tech in the role. Just like a perfect couple, one without the other just doesn’t work.

If you want to see how you can create that one place for knowledge and check out our Chrome Extension in all its glory, click this link or the image below. (It's for our on-demand product tour).

Watch HowNow's On-demand Product Demo

The speeding up of the sales process and cycle

The players have changed, and to be honest, so has the game. The mechanics of the sales process itself have changed as a result of new tech. The process has accelerated with the help of fancy new CRMs, engagement tools and automation aids. The modern salesperson would scoff at the novelty of a desktop phone and rolodex.

But to keep up with this new technology, reps have to be more agile and responsive to stay competitive in a market that moves very fast. Salespeople aren’t having all the fun, the buyers also have a load of new ways they can engage with companies and that too keeps the sellers on their feet. As buyers can view and interact with brands through multiple different channels, reps need to be able to respond to the full gamut of prospects coming their way.

Inbound leads can appear to be the holy grail of prospecting but it’s not as simple as it looks. Rather than reaching out to researched and quality buyers as with outbound campaigns, when someone submits a form for a Product Demo but leaves little to no information, this is going to require a completely different approach. You need to find out all that great information about their needs, and you need to do it double quick.

If tech moves fast, can the sales market keep up?

The tech-sales market is in a constant state of flux. New technologies arrive on the scene each passing day, while others are suddenly rendered obsolete. It is moving at such an unprecedented pace, that the average buyer can’t hope to keep up. It falls on the sales rep’s shoulders to constantly adapt, understand their market and communicate that to the buyers.

The seller becomes a translator of sorts, from complex specialist language to a palatable product that solves a need. Within such a dynamic market, the products themselves are also forever updating and evolving to stay relevant. This relates back to that Know Your Product element we mentioned earlier, but apart from just seller to buyer, the channels of communication within the sales team are also really important.

With constant product updates, and adjusted messaging and approach, using a tool like HowNow allows you to collaborate, update and easily access all the relevant information on your product. That way, with everyone on the same page, you’re accurately representing your solution to your leads and not missing out on an all important differentiating feature that might put you ahead of the competition.

Challenges for the remote sales rep

Out of all these changes, none have been more abrupt than the switch to remote sales over the past year or so.

Whether you’re a sales veteran who’s seen the transformation from both sides, or a newbie, we’ve all got to adjust to selling over Zoom in the kitchen, with a barking dog and dodgy Wi-Fi. One of the biggest changes, especially for old hands, will be how to replace face-to-face rapport and build relationships from behind the screen.

You’ve no longer got client lunches armed with your quick wit to close a deal, instead, you have to get a client’s attention, and keep it, all via our virtual channels. Often this means we need a touch more creativity in how we’re prospecting to really stand out from the masses of sales emails clogging up our buyer’s inbox.

Challenges for the remote sales rep

Without the office, reps will also need to self-navigate and self-train a lot more. That means it’s essential to have easily accessible remote training and a knowledge base packed with the right resources.

And that doesn’t just mean a document created by a manager in 2002 and occasionally referenced, it’s got to be a continual process, involving not just top-down training but peer learning as well. You can no longer rely on picking up things from each other in the office so it’s important to encourage your internal subject matter experts to share knowledge with the rest of the team.

Those relevant and contextual pearls of wisdom just can’t afford to be lost! An abrupt change yes, but it’s a great chance to stimulate a learning culture that was perhaps absent before. By empowering your SME’s to share and learn from each other you create a more vibrant and stimulating team environment and stop knowledge just getting lost and leaked out of the organisation.

We’re enabling this at HowNow by bringing learning right to where we’re all spending 85% of our days: in Slack or Microsoft Teams for the most part. Right now, people may be getting loads of virtual shoulder taps a day and repeating the same answer to multiple different reps.

With HowNow, you can convert your answer into a Nugget that’s saved for everyone to see, so you won’t be typing the same thing again and again. Your younger reps can benefit from the tips and your senior guys can get on with doing the important stuff! Win-win for everyone.

You can find out why HowNow helps your sales team grow the skills that grow your revenue right here.