If you’ve done something before and it worked, surely it makes sense to do it the same way now. Right? And if you’ve done something lots of times before and it keeps working, even more reason to keep doing it the same way? Well, that depends.
In the last few years there have been huge changes in at least 3 of the industries we work with. Almost overnight in 2014 the Swiss banking industry had to give up its single biggest USP – banking secrecy. Starting in about 2010 Cloud computing started to transform the software industry, hitting some of the big established players pretty hard. In 2015 international commodity prices reached record lows and the mining industry took a huge hit.
The Relationship Managers in the Swiss banking industry that we work with along with the Sales People in the software industry and those who sell to the mining industry all found the way they had been working in the past - and getting good results - simply didn’t work anymore. They needed to undertake a paradigm shift to bring their way of selling in line with the new world they were facing.
The new world for a client in mining supplies
You are probably aware that until a few years ago there was a huge demand for commodities such as coal, gold and other metals used in manufacturing driven by the rapid expansion of the Chinese economy. This led to a global boom in mining and consequently for mining supplies. Availability and responsiveness were the important things for customers, margins were high and Sales People were effectively just order takers. They didn’t need to be anything else.
Move forward to today and the Chinese economy has taken a downturn and the prices for commodities have collapsed. Some mines have closed and the rest are struggling. Equipment suppliers are trying to hang on to their margins by selling direct to the mining companies cutting out channel partners. Sales People cannot rely on “old-school” relationship selling anymore or just wait for the phone to ring – the world has changed and the way of selling needs to change as well.
How to go about making the paradigm shift
With changes in the market like the ones I have described a bit of training for the Sales Team has little impact. It requires a top down transformation that recognises that the industry and the needs of customers have significantly changed. The solutions offered and the way of selling have to reflect that. I will take you through the work that our client, who supplies the mining industry, is doing in their Australian division to implement this paradigm shift.
Understanding the changes in the market
Nobody is going to accept the need for change if they don’t understand just how much things have changed. Our clients’ executive management team workshopped all the issues and presented them to the Sales Managers and Sales Team. They went on to define where they needed to be in 12-18 months time so the organisation had a series of clear goals. These were new product and service offerings designed to meet their customers’ own productivity and cost reduction goals.
For instance, I was hugely impressed to see multi-skilled teams working up solutions that included proactive maintenance and remote tyre pressure monitoring to help mine owners plan and reduce total cost of ownership. A big step up from just selling tyres.
What is required to make the changes?
Our client went on to define the sales competencies and skills required to achieve the changes and a sales methodology for selling services. In this case they needed to develop multilevel selling skills, to work better as opportunity teams and improve their ability to articulate the value of their solution offering. This will form their new paradigm of selling.
Every bit as vital to their success is commitment at every level. The senior VP owns the sales transformation project and attends the workshops with the regional sales teams and has real backing from the regional managers who report to him.
They are in the process of embedding the new paradigm into every aspect of Sales; this includes sales tools, management reporting, coaching and performance appraisals. Managers are supported to ensure that the concepts are implemented effectively using opportunity reviews with feedback from an Infoteam consultant. Other clients have gone a step further and decided to certify the implementation of their transformation from the top down.
It’s early days for our clients’ team in Australia but I have seen a similar approach work in the software industry and Swiss banking where a market change has required a paradigm shift in Sales. So I believe they have an excellent chance of turning the situation around. If your market has been disrupted you may need to completely revamp your Sales model, even though it has worked perfectly well in the past.
Are you using a model that has worked in the past in a market that has changed?
Are you asking Sales People to change while the rest of the organisation stays the same?
Are your senior managers really getting involved and leading the change?
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