What is a Sales Person’s Role in 2020?

There is a lot of buzz right now in the industry about redefining a sales person’s role.

Candidly, I agree with where the current research is heading. For far too long, sales has been too simply defined by activity, pipeline, and quotas. While those are all extremely important, I think we need better clarity on how we can actually achieve a quota – which will also lead to a better understanding of why so many deals are falling short.


So, what is the sales person’s role? What really determines their effectiveness? 


In the past, our focus as salespeople and sales leaders has been on the numbers, the metrics, following the process. In other words, the focus has been on how to get the meeting. It was pretty well known by most of us who carried a bag that success in sales was about a choice. For those of us who chose to work the process and make the calls, success – if not guaranteed – was certainly likely. 


Once you got the meeting, the job was pretty simple – uncover needs, build a relationship, and communicate why your solution meets their needs. Oh, and don’t forget to close. Sounds good. 

The problem is, for most of us, this approach just doesn’t work the way it once did. Even though these are still important components of success, something more is required. A new approach is needed, and the key, I believe, is found in how we define a sales rep’s role.


The Rep’s Role

The reps who are successful today understand that their role is not just to understand the customer’s needs and decision process, but to reveal needs and change the decision process/criteria. In other words, with customer centered selling, their role is to change beliefs – to sell a new way of thinking and not just sell their stuff.


To be perfectly clear, I am NOT suggesting that you need to manipulate the customer, but rather that we need to change false beliefs – perhaps about the best solution or the level of investment required to realize the desired benefit. Or, it could be to change their beliefs about why other people need to get involved or why they should slow down the process. Simply put, the successful reps focus on getting the customer to change directions or beliefs when it is in the customer’s best interest to do so.


Yes, there are times when we are in a fulfillment role and when we are offering exactly what they are looking for at the price they are willing to pay. The only challenge then is getting an audience, but this is increasingly rare. 


To succeed today, it is far more common that we will have to root out some inaccurate beliefs about the best way to solve the problem and motivate the customer to think differently about the solution that is right for them.


Why This Works

Why does this approach result in more success? Because a high percentage of decision-makers know that they lack the insight to fully understand their challenges and the experience to solve their problems. That’s not their job. That’s your job. They like it when you show up for work and dive in to point out where they may miss the mark and add value by helping them solve the problem at hand. Of course, they don’t tell you this. They assume you are like every other “commission-breath” sales rep with no clue about what is on their whiteboard.


So the question is, how do you pull that off? How do you get a successful, confident person to embrace the views of someone who will profit from his or her recommendation? 


This is the sales challenge that I want to address. My goal is to offer a few fundamentals of motivating a decision-maker to do a 180 when they are headed in the wrong direction. 


Ask yourself this question:

“Do I have the knowledge to assess their business and the solutions available to determine the best path forward?” Another way to say it, “do you have the knowledge to recognize when the decision-maker is moving in the wrong direction and do you know what you would do if you were the executive in charge?” 


If not, that’s your first assignment – determine your knowledge gap – not by focusing on your solution, but by gaining a better understanding of the challenges and objectives on the decision-maker’s white board and the commonly recognized “best practices” related to addressing those.


Our Solution 

To learn more about Virtual Selling from the company that has been training inside sales reps since 1996, check out our Virtual Sales Skills Program to see if it might be helpful. 


As Co-founder and CEO, Tom’s primary role is to create content that helps people live, sell, and serve more effectively. Find him on LinkedIn

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