Future of sales: Salespeople need to become micro-influencers

Jorge Araluce reveals his cards for winning more deals in this edition of the Future of Sales interview. This includes learning how to become a marketeer, building and leveraging their personal brand to create trust and credibility.

Please tell us about yourself, touching on your professional experience.

I have worked in Sales and Marketing for more than 20 years. I worked in the B2B complex sales at top companies like Cisco and was also the CEO of software startups, where I had the chance to build up the product, the marketing and the sales.

My experience taught me a few things: agile processes (and mindset) can help to close the gap between sales and marketing. My skill set combine the word of Sales and Marketing, the word of Startups, SaaS and product development and the word of Digital, Automation and Growth Hacking.

I currently work with both corporates and startups to design Playbooks and processes to solve sales challenges. I am good at finding ways to grow sales and obsessed about productivity and getting things done.

What is driving the Future of sales?

Many people, including myself, have been advocating for the need of Salespeople to become Marketeers, with Marketing teams empowering salespeople with Content and Messaging. These days, my views go even further: salespeople need to be Influencers or micro-influencers of their networks of stakeholders; customers, colleagues, peers, even competitors and of course prospects.

The same way famous influencers conduct their business and themselves as Startups, each salesperson has to become a fully operational unit. A sales & marketing pod, targeting their market, with the right positioning, messaging and content for their specific customers. With full business cycle responsibility, from defining their marketing, prospecting, nurturing and educating them, and of course, closing the sales in a consultative manner. Winning more will become a natural result after having earned the trust and credibility as a subject matter expert.

How will sales professional responsibilities evolve through the next 5-10 years?

In line with previous questions, the key lies in adding value to the buying process. I am sure that there is a lot of value that good professionals can bring to their customers. This, though, is not just about qualifying them to find their budget or time frame (BANT). The sales pro of the future will have full cycle responsibility in their assigned space, which is not necessary limited by geography but more in lines of specialisation.

In the end, customers want guidance and that’s why they seek a specialist. The best way to serve a customer is to “own” the product. This means to understand the best uses, the competition etc., which have always been part of the skillset of top sales professionals anyway.

What new skills will be in demand in today’s climate? Are there any that will be less relevant?

More than a whole new set of competencies, I believe the need is to re-adjust existing skills to the new way of selling. The basics and the psychology of selling have not changed, but we need to take advantage of the new technologies and possibilities (though, traditionally, salespeople have been quick to adapt).

In terms of practical skills, the full use of social media is an absolute must in most sales roles. This involves optimizing your presence and profile, but also mastering  the prospecting tactics (and available technology) and the fuel of the process, the content. Content is a must but it is a challenge because it has to be good. It is better to concentrate and target on some customer cases, than to use a “spray-and-pray” generic approach. Also, each salesperson must personalize the content to their audience such that you are able to add your personal point of view and your customer tone of voice.

With technology, you have to have the right attitude: the willingness to try and to spend some time learning new tools.

Regarding what is going to be less relevant, I think that cold call pitching and qualification skills are over-invested. We, as people, hate to be pitched and qualified, and it usually leaves us with a bad sales experience. I believe the sales model should evolve to a more natural relationship where Salespeople guide instead of pitch .

How has social media and digitization altered the nature of salespeople’s interactions with its customers? Do you see it eventually substitute for face-to-face interactions?

Digital selling has some peculiarities but again, so is selling to humans so the basics remain the same. Most people do not want to follow marketing or sales messages, so don’t broadcast corporate branding to your connections via your personal account. Use your personal account to share your views and build your personal reputation. It is a unique tool to research, prospect and find opportunities.

Regarding the substitution of face to face, I am going to say yes,  in some cases. To substantiate it there are some questions to consider:

First, can you open a sales relationship online? I think, in most cases, yes.

Second, can you evolve, nurture the relationship to educate your prospect about your proposition? again in most cases, yes, and you can do it better online most of the time.

Third, can you close online? Well, that will depend on the size of the sale, but in many cases, yes. Think about it, there are even prime ministers summits online!

And finally, the key question is: Do you need to be exclusively online or can you combine it as needed? I think you should use whatever is more convenient and efficient instead of an all/nothing approach.

With the advent of individualized digital training and coaching platforms, how have/do you see a change in sales leaders’ responsibilities in terms of developing and managing talent.

This is a tricky question because you first need to assume that the individualized training is well setup and operational. In this case, there will be big changes in the role of sales leaders in developing their teams.

I believe that the very definition and design of a sales enablement system for training and coaching has to be done by the sales leader, who knows the customer and the way to sell to them. Once it is operational, it will be a self-managed system where it will auto-adjust to follow the best-performing strategies, messages and content.

The managerial role will be to aggregate the data, identify trends, fills gaps and have a more strategic approach to both sales and the coaching of the individuals.

How will the deployment of digital technologies affect sales training effectiveness?

The adage, “you only improve what gets measured ” is fully on spot here. Attaching numbers to a discussion is a great way to move things along faster. Imagine if you could A/B test every communication you have with each of your customers at each moment in their journey. This is not about having a robotic scientific message but about empowering sales to actually speak the right language and the tone of the customer.

Do you think that feedback is essential to salespeople?

What I have been talking about is sales behaving like a business or a startup, and that each one has to find their product-market fit. That means treating every sales message as a product that needs to be validated with each of the possible targets. And to validate anything you need the data, so yes, feedback is absolutely essential!

About The Author:

Jorge Araluce is a Sales Enablement professional , Tech founder and Sales Coach working with Startups and remote selling teams to design better sales processes based on technology and digital selling. He also works with VC & Corporates in Open Innovation and Startup programs. You can found more about his latest projects at salesflows.io

Alla Idrisova is the Founder and CBDO of Xtatio. A woman who is used to standing out in male-dominated territories, she started out with a Master’s in Engineering, followed by a Doctorate in International Economics & Business. An INSEAD Alumni, a mentor for startups, an executive coach, a Sales Leader and sparring partner of Martin Peters at Xtatio, she is an all-rounder who works hard and plays harder, counting kitesurfing, snowboarding & hanging out with her 4-year-old as her hobbies.

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