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Opinion: Managing the ever-changing sales environments

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A lot has changed in the world of business in the last decade. But what has not changed is the need to adjust to an evolving sales environment in practical, profitable ways. 

When customers change their buying patterns or make changes to their purchasing processes, it forces managers to make adjustments or lose sales.

Virtually everyone agrees that change is a fact of business survival today. Still, some managers change too slowly or not at all.

Famed business sage W. Edwards Deming said of change, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” Some simply won’t survive the future because they hold on to their status quo marketing or sales.

Successful sales leaders realize how rapidly the marketplace changes – and how fast customer loyalty, market share and sales can decline. One reason for a quick sales decline is that customers feel like technology has made it easier for them to switch suppliers.

A 2017 Salesforce study found three out of four business buyers say they feel significantly more empowered than five years ago. Advancements in augmented reality and virtual reality are examples of how technologies are empowering buyers today.

A recent article in Sales and Marketing Management said AR and VR gives prospects immersive face-to-face experiences that help them become better informed. And for the sales force, it creates an opportunity to communicate the company’s differentiated value.
Sales and marketing tools like AR and VR aren’t ubiquitous, yet. Many companies are only now deploying sales enablement tools, such as downloadable content on their website, videos and tip sheets, and have a sales force equipped to handle the challenge of communicating value tailored to fit the customer’s interests.   

Technology isn’t the only challenge on the minds of managers today. I talk with a number of sales executives every week whose customers insist on their lowest prices, highest value and fastest turn times – and more expertise. Still others tell me their biggest hurdle is customer skepticism.

Recently, an executive for a global information technology company described for me how some customers want more rigor in their proposals. Specifically, in addition to detailing what the supplier will provide, they also want a detailed explanation of what they won’t provide.

“What’s happened to trust today?” he asked me.

All a person has to do is look at a graph to see how far trust has declined in the last decade. Picture a water slide at its upper-most crest taking a gradual but steady plunge.

Like most challenges that surface in business, there is often a corresponding opportunity, if you take advantage of it.

One such opportunity I believe will gain momentum in 2018 is to build the organization’s sales force into a strategic competitive advantage. While most companies focus their strategic advantages on solution differentiators, price or market niche, there is real merit to using the sales force to create meaningful separation.

Author Chris Lytle maintains, “Customers must buy how you sell before they buy what you sell.” This is especially true given the customer’s power to choose between suppliers.

The major complaint about salespeople from the C-suite and purchasing managers is they bring no value and waste their time. It’s not very likely that will change much, unless salespeople are trained to sell customers like they expect to be sold.

Changes to the selling environment are both challenging and exciting. Certainly, managing change pays off most when it aligns with the customer’s desires.

Consultant and professional speaker Mark Holmes is president of Springfield-based Consultant Board Inc. and He’s also the author of “The Five Rules of Megavalue Selling.” He can be reached at


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