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Entrepreneurial selling as strategic competency Published: Sunday, August 5, 2012 12:01 am By: Ramón L. Rivera, President & CEO

Sales are vital in today’s economy and the success of any company depends on the efficiency of sales professionals. Companies are more and more preoccupied of their commercial activity, trying to differentiate in their struggling for a share of their customers’ budgets.  But customers are unhappy with traditional salespersons that provide very little assistance in identifying a better solution and frequently abuses of the confidence of their clients. Customers are looking to a salesperson as it would be the owner of the selling company himself and expect from him to care about their needs and to provide them his company’s best solution to their needs in a relation of lasting partnership and trust.

         It is a whole new marketplace that requires a new sales paradigm. Consumers have a higher level of education and a better understanding of the value proposition. They refuse to pay for things that are not directly related to their needs or expectations, things like publicity, useless services or unneeded technological novelties. The market transparency is increasing due to the expansion of Internet and other information and communication technologies. More data and information are easily accessible for both customers and suppliers providing a tool for each party to defend its interest. The opening of internal markets has accentuated the competition between suppliers and gave a larger choice to buyers, who, in turn, became more demanding asking for deeply customized proposals and, more generally, a customized relationship.

         When customers’ definition of value changes, a dynamic sales organization is required to adapt to those changes. Therefore, a sales strategy must be viewed as a process for responding to changed needs of customers. This shift in strategic thinking has been termed “sense and respond” by Jones, Eli; Chonko, Lawrence; and Roberts, James. It is a mindset that emphasizes capabilities and relationships, not products and transactions. No surprise, most North American consumer goods manufacturers have reorganized their sales forces in the past five (5) years. As stated by Manna and Smith, a transactional sales representative will not have the effective personal skill set to become an effective sales representative as customers are becoming more empowered and expecting more in terms of service.

         There is a human element that needs to occur in the sale, before one secures a loyal, committed customer. Therefore, corporations need to understand that the training programs that were developed years ago simply may not apply in the modern and highly competitive marketplace. Scholars are investigating the reasons of differences in results between companies having adopted similar forms of sales organization. Many of them mention self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, social awareness, and social skills among human and professional qualities that the salesman should prove. 

         This kind of expectations is incompatible with a salesperson behaving as a clerk, by performing standardized activities, achieving his duties in an impersonal manner. It requires that the salesperson behave as an authentic entrepreneur. In the attempt to develop the sales force’s entrepreneurial spirit, the selling function of the company is gradually redefined. As one may see, the salesperson has a new role. He is planning the sales in cooperation with the clients, developing mutually benefiting solutions; he is actually an entrepreneur.

          Entrepreneur-like selling is more than a set of procedures; it demands more sophisticated skills and knowledge in order to allow the selling agent to cope with ever changing needs, desires and expectations of the customers. The new environment compels a proactive attitude of the sales force that has to manage the distribution to a certain territory as its own business. In many companies salespersons are already considered accountable for the performance of their activity from a multitude of points of view: sales, income, expenditures, profitability, and number of customers and level of satisfaction of these ones. This approach will be adopted by a large number of organizations in the near future.

         The new sales-entrepreneur has a number of distinctive qualities that allows for a more systemic approach to the sales function:

1. High level of professional education: knowledge and skills, especially in such relevant fields as market analysis, selling techniques, cost benefit analysis. He has also good knowledge of the particular context of his activity: products, customers, rival companies and substitution products, legal provisions, currently used languages, and so on;

2. Opportunity catching ability: perceives or imagines opportunities and promptly deploys the necessary efforts and actions in order to put them into value, and get the benefit out of them;

3. Interpersonal relations building skills: quickly establishes strong and trustful relationships with actual and potential customers, and maintains these relationships in a friendly, non-invasive manner, acting loyally as an advisor and a companion;

4. Independence and accountability: acts in an independent manner, makes his own schedule and takes initiative in relation with various opportunities or problems that may occur being accountable both to the company to which he belongs and to the client; he is expected to make decisions;

5. Optimistic behavior: develops strong self-confidence and communicates a good image of himself; He is sensible to novelties, full of energy in identifying new customers, available to design solutions to problems; he is a hard worker, but is doing the work with intelligence, trying to get maximum benefit for the company and for himself.

          Success in today’s business depends on the recognition of the changes affecting the sales activity. Today selling is more sophisticated than few years ago. Despite the fact that the essence of the act of selling did not change very much, there are important mutations in the way in which the customer is regarded and in the complexity of the responsibility given to the salesperson. By managing sales as its own business, combining intuition, imagination, initiative and risk taking with good professional knowledge and skills, the successful salesperson must behave as an authentic “sales- entrepreneur”. 

Copyright 2012, QBS Inc.

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