The future of selling will see a new sales strategy emerging. This new strategy is called the “whole-brain” selling approach.
Anna Hoglund investigates how selling in the future will become much more professional.
Most people envision the classic right-brain salesman, complete with people skills, hard-sell tactics, and your tacky suit of choice. While the ability to command audience attention and not take “no” for an answer is important, future executives also possess left-brain aptitude. Strengths on this side include the ability to analyze, organize, and produce a strategy tailored to a company’s specific needs. Allen is an example of the successful sales professional of the future. By supplementing his analytical bent with strong communication skills and customer understanding, Allen has kept one step ahead of the game. Combining the right-brained extrovert of the past with the left-brained consultant common today produces the whole-brained salesman of the future.
University courses in selling
The modern and more complex role of sales professionals demands specialized education. As with any industry, new roles require new training and sales is no exception. Providing programs that train students to develop both right-brained and left-brained selling techniques is essential. What many may not realize is that such education has been available for a while. Baylor University, the first to develop a sales major, recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Center for Professional Selling this past September. Since its inception, fifteen other universities have established similar programs; however, industry leaders call upon academics to develop more programs at the collegiate level. Lance Bettencourt, Strategy Adviser at management consulting firm Strategyn, stated, “As market dynamics change, academics has to lead the market and not follow it in the field of sales.” Developing this profession at the collegiate level is pivotal in preparing for the future. Proper sales education enables students to jump right into the field upon graduation.
In addition to preparing students, thorough sales research is an asset to the future of this field. Conducting research provides the industry with the facts and figures needed to address the future demands of account executives. In fact, valuable data has already been gathered by business analysts. For example, Georgia Tech’s professor of marketing Dr. Goutam Challagalla revealed that companies spend a whopping $7 on Sales for every $3 on marketing. Other valuable studies have drawn attention to the importance of sales to the core of business strategy. Data gathered by researchers like Challagalla has shown that sales is much more than the step-child of marketing. Although it has been difficult to put sales in the forefront, further research will help legitimize the profession and propel it towards the future.
How should a company appropriately compensate its sales managers? What does going to market look like for a company? Specific programs that address the needs of a corporation at the most basic level all the way up to the CEO level provide well-trained individuals strong in both analytical and relational skills. Similar to George Allen’s experience, the salesperson of the future is a well-rounded, or “whole brained”, individual with the ability to assess and instruct a company while taking into consideration the goals of company employees. Schools need to be prepared to handle the greater demand for specialized programs as the industry shifts its focus toward the future.
As more students graduate with degrees in professional selling, companies need to be informed about the availability of highly-trained professionals. Every company seeks to gain the competitive edge within its industry segment. Eliminating the hunt for the next-best-thing is easily accomplished by hiring an executive trained in professional selling. Professional salespeople offer both basic business knowledge, such as accurate forecasting, and consulting skills.
With sales education transitioning into a further advanced role, the industry is taking a great step in removing the negative stigma associated with sales. Negative associations attributed to salespeople have lead to a continual fight for the legitimacy of professional selling as a career. It seems that everyone has had an experience with a sleazy car salesman. And have telemarketers ever been highly esteemed?
Being able to answer questions such as, “How does background affect consumer behavior?” and, “What are the best ways to manage salespeople overseas?” is the next issue to address.
Sales professionals should develop an international perspective given the shift to a global economy. In the future, and even now, salespeople interact with people from different cultures, behaviors, and beliefs.
Sales has a promising future in the business discipline. However, what differentiates tomorrow’s top sales professional from the “average joe salesman” is more than just a new suit. Developing a mindset that incorporates both left-brained analytical skills with right-brained extroversion and relational skills puts these individuals at the forefront. Furthermore, educational programs developed from ground-breaking sales research will provide every businessperson with the opportunity to tackle the changing role of sales professionals and stay ahead of the curve.
Anna Hoglund works for the Center for Professional Selling at Baylor University.