The future of sales – 8Ps (Forrester’s 5 and 3 more)

The future of sales - Forrester's Five PsPhil Harrell, VP, Group Director, at Forrester, recently wrote a blog post titled “Welcome To The Future: Have You Heard About The 5 P’s Of Sales“, a brief but thoughtful look at changes he sees for the future of sales.

It’s a good piece of writing, including insights with which I mostly agree. 

It does leave out three critical Ps, which I want to ensure we are all considering.

First, here is a brief overview of the five Ps:

Purpose-Driven

The claim is that buyers will want to buy from socially responsible companies. I disagree with this assumption but, corporate social responsibility is a good thing, so let’s move on.

Precise

AI will help with hiring, goal setting, and customer identification. I agree.

Personalize

Coaching and buying experiences will be better personalized to the specific needs of the consumer of the service. I agree.

Productive

Only 23% of a seller’s time is on core selling activities, and this must improve. While I agree with the problem, I do not believe this will change dramatically or event that it necessarily needs to be solved.  

One of my three Ps, Personal, will address why this should not be a primary focus for most B2B businesses.

Profitable

Businesses will focus on cost reduction in sales, with more investment in technology, enablement, and sales support, versus hand-to-hand selling via quota-carrying reps. I agree this is needed, but most businesses will not have the rigor to get it right.

What are the three Ps that we should add to this list to round out the future of sales?

Personal

The amount of time spent on core selling activities is consistently reported as less than 1/3 of a seller’s time.

Those focused on driving operational efficiency scream and cringe — I certainly do as well.

As I noted above, driving this metric higher should not be your primary focus.

Yes, you want to streamline data entry, eliminate unproductive internal meetings, and a few other areas that are genuinely time wasters.

However, for the sellers of tomorrow to be successful, we not only need to personalize experiences; we need to get personal.

What do I mean?

While personalized coaching will ensure your sellers have better conversations and use your methodologies and framework effectively, they do nothing to support the seller as a whole employee, as a person.

Businesses that want to succeed in the future must focus more energy on the growth of their employees and should consider the following:

  • Proper career paths allow great sellers to continue to grow their skills without forcing them to become leaders (unless they want to).
  • Educational opportunities to learn how to be a manager/leader for those that pursue that career path.
  • Opportunities to mentor and to be mentored by others in the organization.

While many accept the attrition rates of sellers as both “just the way it is,” we can do better for the employees and the business itself.

Predictable

Phil is close to this one when he speaks to Precise, and I agree with him from the perspective he wrote his post.

However, we need to challenge ourselves to look at relationships from our perspective and our customers.

Customers need to know, throughout their buying journey, that they are working with a partner who can:

  • Help them solve their problems
  • Navigate their internal processes, relationships, and challenges to reduce their headaches and simplify buying the solution.

Yes, as a business, we need to be precise at forecasting, but to do so, we must help our customers to follow their internal processes predictably.

Perspective

I am less optimistic about this one — but it is important.

Business must move beyond the monthly/quarterly focus.  

We are not producing model Ts on an assembly line.

We are building relationships across teams and people, each with their unique wants and needs. It is a subtle process, part science, part art, and it is only somewhat predictable.

Much can be done to better forecast, improve predictability throughout the cycle, create broader funnels, better target buyers, and so forth. I am not dismissing any of this as it is vital.

However, we make poor decisions when we allow ourselves to be driven by the calendar than by the buyer, their needs, and their timelines.

Until we genuinely embrace that perspective, we will not truly transform the future of sales.