Abdel Habri, who has 20 years of experience in international sales and business development, talks about the changing role of marketing in the sales profession and the one key competency that salespeople should work on to thrive in today’s climate.
Xtatio: Please tell us about yourself, touching on your professional experience.
In the last 20 years, I have worked in international sales/account management and business development in various industries, from software and hardware to construction machinery, automotive telematics and energy
At the beginning, I focused on markets such as the Middle East and Africa. Thanks to my origins from Morocco, I have a good grasp of the business and communication culture of the MEA region, on top of my good command of Arabic and French, the languages mostly spoken in this part of the world. Later on, I started developing the Southern European market and the LATAM due to my fluent Spanish.
My educational background was in language sciences. I specialised in sociolinguistics and Later on in social psychology of communication at the University of Utrecht. Thereafter, my interest started to go to the field of neuropsychology of interpersonal communication.
Xtatio: How will sales functions change in the future? Do you think that marketing will eventually be incorporated into sales?
Sales and marketing are married for life! It is hard for any organisation to sell without marketing. The latter is the backbone of business development.
Marketing prepares the arsenal for sales by performing market research and competitive analysis, inducing brand awareness, promoting the firm credibility and outperforming the competitors with the view of generating revenue for the company. Furthermore, you ought to have a good understanding of marketing and its tools should you want to be a successful salesperson, and to be a good marketer, you have to be sales-minded and understand the perspectives of your business partners, their requirements, trends and needs.
Technology has indeed changed how we work as salespeople. When I started 20 years ago, salespeople had to do almost 85% of the legwork. We had to be physically present in the assigned market and give endless presentations and trainings. Nowadays, we have effective marketing and communication tools that allow us do most of our work remotely, and we meet with our business partners when it’s time to close a deal and sign. Nevertheless, I would speculate that we will witness a big change in the near future when marketing will rather occupy a good share of the sales cycle.
Xtatio: What new competencies will be in demand in today’s climate? Are there any that will be less relevant?
As most of the sales communication with business partners will be done virtually, one of the key competencies that salespeople need to work on is refining their virtual communication technics. Around 70% of our face-to-face communication is based on our perception of the context, body language, facial impressions, micro-expressions and the tone of voice. However, in virtual communication, the challenge is how you can express, nor perceive emotions, attitudes and impressions in the absence of the before-mentioned, decisive ingredients when we start replacing face-to-face interactions.
Xtatio: Will digital communication take over face-to-face communication in the future?
We are seeing that digital communication is slowly prevailing. However, I might be a conservative type of salesperson being inclined towards face-to-face communication. I don’t think, virtual presentations emails and phone calls will be that effective in convincing people to do business with you. A good clear voice, coherent body language, right flair will always be needed to build report with your clients and prospects as long as the latter are persons.
I don’t believe that digital communication will ever be as effective as face-to-face communication.
Xtatio: As a sales leader, have you adjusted your targets because of COVID-19?
KPIs are based on the context, facts and present, naturally occurred data. Everything has changed because of COVID-19 – the way people work, the way they interact and how business is generated… Hence, I believe that sales targets need to be adjusted accordingly.
Xtatio: What are the other trends you are seeing out there?
Companies used to allocate a bulk of their budget to face-to-face meetings with customers and prospects – the cost of traveling is expensive after all. This is set to change because of the pandemic. Companies will invest more in software infrastructures for their transition to the digital world.
Xtatio: Do you think that feedback is essential to salespeople?
My advice to salespeople is “never assume”. It’s never too much to ask for feedback. As such, you are 100% certain of your customer’s perspective. I would certainly say that feedback is crucial and there should be asked for on daily basis.
Learn more about how you can gather feedback from your customers after your sales meetings here.