Picking up on all the many and various developments around modern selling employers, team leaders, staff and new recruits, there is one emerging theme that looks like the future, for many and the best paid sellers, if not for most or “the herd”.
It has its roots in some excellent and seminal business books, namely Daniel H Pink’s “A Whole New Mind - Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future”, that has an endorsement on the front cover from, and is quite rightly a great companion book to Thomas L Friedman’s “The World is Flat”.
Which Jobs are Changing?
Between them, these two very insightful authors have rounded up and summarised much that is changing for both individuals and businesses operating in the 21st Century, and particularly with reference to how the internet is facilitating and hastening such changes to unprecedented levels. Entire continents or certainly sub-continents and nations of humanity are now, already, by-passing previously required layers of social evolution, like Agricultural-to-Industrial-to-Post-Industrial Revolutions. Their citizens can pretty well therefore make an instant leap from mud hut to technically competent X-Ray Analyst, Accounts Clerk or Computer Programmer.
|Hairdressing - Up-close and personal|
This, in turn, is forcing the “developed” world to accelerate its speed of change, and particularly for those of its citizens who do not wish to stay with the “me too” herd. Jobs like “Hairdresser”, “Plumber” or “Landscape Gardener” that do require a local, physical presence may only witness increasingly wealthy (or poor) clientele as a result. But any activities that include a digital/computer/online component are finding those component parts of the job seeking a “most cost effective” supplier, wherever on the planet’s surface that supplier might happen to reside.
Not “Sales” though – Surely?
Those “activities” or jobs, these days, include the vast majority of what all “business people” do and, if you thought for one minute that Selling was going to be immune, you’d be wrong. We already have a dispersed national infrastructure where even the advertised “UK Call Centres Only” can mean that we end up, when we are customer/prospect mode, dealing with someone who might as well be a “foreigner”. It has even been a sustained UK Government policy to locate any number of civil servants in places where the “local” population they serve cannot get face-to-face with them (in order to “wring their scrawny necks with bare hands”, etc. - tax officials spring to mind!). We’ve also all witnessed the very substantial exodus of telemarketing and telesales teams to other parts of the globe, and it is only a matter of (pretty short) time before cultural barriers, language issues and the like are overcome, such that many find their permanent home elsewhere.
20th v 21st Century - VAR v DELL
In this way, even the “me too” herd aspirants will need to be multi-lingual, computer-competent and culturally-adaptable to keep up, and the “front line” operators may also find their job functions changing rapidly. It might once have been the case, and possibly still is, that a “local” buyer or prospect needed a local expert to come and discuss his/her needs and provide the required solution. In IT, for example, the structures of sales channels leading to a VAR (Value-Added Reseller - whose biggest “value add” was probably that s/he was geographically local), are still rife. But what happens when the “IT support” or “IT training” is no longer needed, wanted or delivered locally? And what does this mean for the Channel Sales Director of the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) or Software Development Company? Consider also the ramifications of these moves on all those Sales & Marketing or Business Development Directors, and their teams, back down at VAR level. Dell is an eye-opening example from Friedman’s book, as he traces through the entire chain from the order he places (online, of course) through to delivery to his home/office door.
Command & Control – Salesforce.com 1.0
|20th Century Production Line|
So we come to the next global IT player, working these online channels to the maximum, namely Salesforce.com. Predictably, having themselves evolved out of the 20th Century, you can still see ample evidence of the Pink/Friedman description of “Command & Control” structures, in terms of how the company’s goals are set, and then how they manage themselves internally, to try and meet those goals. And it is very much like a production line, with “Sales” doing this or that, “Marketing” the other, and various interim and connecting bodies like “Sales Operations” trying to join up the dots. The idea being that if you can excite the market with a machine/automated series of messages, generate the leads, process them through to people-to-people contact and then close the deals and invoice the next customer, that’s a “process” that you can simply crank up (or down) to generate the required revenue and profit streams.
Connect & Collaborate – Salesforce.com 2.0
It’s a nice idea, and was and still is a provable business model for many businesses operating today. BUT, and here’s the kicker, “Connect & Collaborate” platforms (vital in the Pink/Friedman world) like Microsoft Office Live! or Google Docs have the biggest potential to expand on activities like those incessant and broken email threads, to be shared by all of us to smooth the path of working together. It’s the big piece of hardboard, if you like, that your mother used to lay out all her jigsaw pieces.
The Salesforce.com version is called “Chatter”, and is mostly, currently, being used internally by their staff. The idea is that anybody from anywhere within the organisation, globally, can be called in to discuss and assist with this or that project, typically and obviously with the biggest excitement and potential being around any big, global, new business account wins. And it is here, on this platform, that Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff (an excellent front-line seller himself, it has to be said) has identified this whole new breed of employee.
Get the Picture?
So new, in fact, that it’s not even clear if they have a name/job title, yet, but what they do is to “connect & collaborate”. These are the right-brained “big picture” people, who can not only spot the best opportunities based on an intimate knowledge of what is and some creative juice to fuel what might be; they can also then find all the relevant pieces of the jigsaw, be that people, product or marketing collateral, and then pull it all together and present it to the prospective new account (and all the various and different people therein) in a clear and compelling way. Take note too, if you need to, that one of the fastest growing people-connect-to-people database and prospect platforms is called exactly that - Jigsaw - also now working in collaboration with Salesforce.com.
Thus they are also the “story-tellers”, “architects” and “orchestrators” that Pink/Friedman are so sure will be the essential ingredients of this brave New Business World. Whatever they are to be called, Mr Benioff is very clear about one thing, and that is that they are amongst the most valuable employees in the organisation. He would also dearly love to hang on to those he has and to recruit, train and reward a lot more like them.
Jobs for the Troops
|The Bourne Identity - Who's in Charge?|
It might be of course that, in best Hollywood-CIA-style (see Bourne Identity and others), there is still a need for “local resource” and an in-person, front-line seller will still have to be despatched to press (or twist) the flesh. Or maybe the “Chief Orchestrator” makes the physical trip, if necessary. But it’ll be very clear, to all concerned, who’s really pulling the strings, where the strongest relationships and trust are, and where the best account development potential lies. So “Field Sales” might remain an option (but going, going, gone are the days when you could live by pocketing a few personal tasty accounts), as could “Inside Sales”, being the multi-media replacement for “Telesales”.
The Job for You?
However, and again as Friedman cautions - echoing JFK no less, if you want to equip yourself with Employability for Life (rather than demanding Employment for Life), then it is these “Dealmaker” or “Rainmaker” skills that are going to be in the greatest demand.
So, when that job vacancy ad of the future, from the best blue-chip you know, says…
“Global Business Development Executive - £/$ 1,000,000+ (Negotiable)
As a visionary of our new business potential…”
…the suggestion is that you take a leaf out of the book of that most venerable of ancient orders, the Boy Scouts/Girl Guides and…be prepared.