Read a story from a future salesperson who went back in time and experienced all the different way of selling.
Do you have a crystal ball and the ability to look into the future? Of course not, no one does. Even so, have you ever thought about how your life and work will change thanks to technological changes in the future?
We guess most of you have done that. So what do you see and how do you picture your regular workday in just a couple of years?
Are you still stuck behind a desk, using stationary tools, spending time on administration, spending even more time on analysing? Have you also looked back in time and compared how you have it today with when you started in the business?
Let’s take a journey and consider a possible letter from a salesperson coming back in time from the future and also compare how it was before.
Let’s start by following our future colleague on a historical journey back in time. Let’s see how much selling has changed over the years – or has it really?
Let’s set the time travelling machine on the mid-1930s
How did they do business in the thirties? Most of the business was done by visiting customers and knocking on their door. Those of you who have read any really old sales literature will recognise the “Knock the client and grab the money and run” mentality.
So, what kind of tools did the salespeople have at their disposal? Well, they had a pen, paper and telephone. They also had a phone book, a fixed-line phone, physical mail, a typewriter, a card index and a slide rule.
How did they travel? By walking, car and train Market: Very local Need for a sales office: Less Mobile support: None
Let’s move on to the observe mid-1970s selling, the decade of the office
How were things different for the people selling in this decade? There must have been a giant leap, because 40 years had passed, right?
Well, they did have access to handheld calculators and they could also travel by aeroplane, but that’s basically it. They were still stuck in the office if they had to communicate.
They still had their manual card indexes; most people still used typewriters and they definitely called using a fixed line. The salesperson was also the first single source of information for the customer.
They interacted through meetings, fairs and exhibitions, printed brochures etc. The only way for a salesperson to get information about customers was to either meet them, speak to them over the phone or send them mail through the post office.
How did they travel? By car, train and aeroplane Market: National Need for a sales office: Big Mobile support: None
We continue and fast forward another 20 years to the mid-1990s
Now we have moved on about 60 years from when we started. There must have been a big difference between working in the nineties and working in the thirties, right?
In general, we actually treat our customers differently and realise the value of working relationships, trust and knowledge in doing business. Also, of course, society has changed a lot, but how different has a salesperson’s regular workday become? Not much.
In the nineties we of course had personal computers on our desks. They replaced the typewriter.
We started to see mobile phones in every person’s hand and the first GSM networks were launched. We were also getting used to sending emails, but we still used regular mail for important information (sometimes we also used fax).
So now we could call and communicate while outside the office. That was good, but it did not really change the situation.
Salespeople were more or less still using stationary tools, as they had done in the thirties. Of course, the spread of the internet started to change things a little bit, but that was still very much on the periphery.
Using the internet on mobile devices was very limited, so we could not get any real information advantages over our competitors.
How did they travel? By car, train and aeroplane Market: National Need for a sales office: Big Mobile support: Phone call on the move
Let’s take a quick jump to the present time
How different is our workday in the 2010’s ? Now we start to see bigger changes. Thanks to the fact that digital communication tools have improved a lot, we are doing more business than ever with people outside our local market.
The digital revolution is really reducing distances. We are connecting with people and businesses that only 10 years ago it would have been impossible for us to find or even know existed.
We have a smartphone in our pocket – a device with the same capability that a mainframe had 20 years ago, although we don’t fully use that capability.
We also have CRMs to handle all information about our customers, even though CRMs haven’t spread as much in small and medium-sized businesses as they have in larger companies.
We use mobile smartphones to communicate while in the field; we can interact with and get information about our customers through social media etc.
Our customers are also changing their behaviour, since they don’t need to turn to salespeople for information gathering any more – they do it themselves on the internet and turn to the salespeople when they have made up their mind.
These things have really moved forward a lot in recent years. We have probably seen more improvements in the last 10 years than we saw in the previous 70 years.
But we still use stationary sales and business tools to support us in our mobile workday. We still do most of our communicating from behind a desk. We still need to do a lot of administration – perhaps even more administration than before, since we are stuck between a paper-based world and the future, completely digital world.
First we take notes in meetings, then we type the same information into our CRM. We look at reports that tell us how it was historically but still need to do most of the business analytics for the future on our own.
How do they travel? By car, train, aeroplane and internet Market: National and some international Need for a sales office: Less Mobile support: Partial – communication, social media and rudimentary sales and business support
What about the next five years? What will change?
First, let’s look at some statistics and conditions. According to Citrix (2012) and CDW (2013), 89% of all employees use a mobile phone. They also predict that the total number of smartphones in use by 2016 will be approximately 1.6 billion.
Why is this interesting? We are becoming more and more mobile, and that creates possibilities for change. The mobile way will impact our lives and way of working (especially sales and other “in-the-field” professions) on a much broader scale than any previous technological change in the last 70 years.
Smartphones, tablets and smart mobile devices have already made how and when we access data much easier.
With new functionality constantly multiplying the ease with which we can access and use data, mobile technology is set to increase its involvement in our everyday lives, both professionally and personally.
As a private person we are used to being able to access many services directly from our smartphone or tablet. We are used to being informed of any changes in our social lives – who posted a new picture, what people ate for dinner, what results they got on their latest training exercise etc.
We have become used to living very mobile and informed lives as private people. The mobile device is also the first thing we fire up in the morning and the last thing we put aside before going to bed.
It is there, right next to us during almost all of our awake time. Being mobile has made our lives so much easier in so many respects – that’s why we love our mobile devices so much. Now it’s time for business software like CRM to take the same leap that we made several years ago privately.
So, back to the future! What does our future colleague want to tell us? What sneak peek can we get by listening to the story from the future? Well to start with, we will not be stuck behind a desk any more, we will be mobile professionals.
We will constantly be updated about any changes in our business network and we will know when a customer contact has changed their phone number, employer etc.
That information will be shared and social. We will be able to keep our colleagues instantly updated about any changes or updates. We will not spend time doing administration, thanks to intelligent systems doing it for us.
Predefined action plans will be presented to us based on historical customer performance – such as who buys what and when, how long deals take and who to call at what time – to make it easy for both us and our customers.
We will probably not need to travel as much as we have done over the last 20–30 years, since digital communication reduces the need for on-site meetings. We prefer to have those when it really matters.
How do they travel? By car, train, aeroplane, internet and video conference Market: Global Need for a sales office: None Mobile support: Complete – communication, social media and full sales and business support and intelligence, on the move 24/7, everywhere
What can we learn from our colleague from the future?
The next five years will change how we work more than the last 70 years have done combined. Things are changing fast. The ones who utilise these changes will be able to gain advantages over their competitors.
The ones who embrace these changes will get more support, do more business and become more successful, while at the same time having more time to interact with customers, family and friends.
Those who are late in embracing the changes will get left behind and risk going out of business. Remember, as in any war (YES, it is a war between competitors) it is the person who is sitting on the most accurate and latest information who gets the upper hand – that is not going to change.
About selling, the processes are now less standardized and more tailored made, check here our article about the next generation of sales processes.