Change, by itself, is neither good nor bad. It depends on what the change is, how it affects us and how we react to it. What we do know is that, if a society, country or industry rejects change, there is no growth and no progress. It’s no different for the CI industry, whether you’re a running sales on a frontline integrator. Change has struck the industry more times than we might like this past year.
Change is a constant, however, much like humans’ fear of change. Routine is preferred because it makes us feel more in control of our lives. The word ‘change’ is a synonym for impact, almost like a punch, and it can feel that way sometimes, and it’s that fear of getting punched that can lead to people avoiding change altogether.
The inability to change, progress or grow results in stagnation. It has been said, “Stagnation rejects realizing one’s full potential. Stagnation is not a healthy flowing river; it is an idle and stale pond.” None other than Benjamin Franklin noted, “When you are finished changing, you’re finished.”
Noted author and culture design consultant Gustavo Razzetti, writing in Psychology Today, tells us, “We fear change because we can’t anticipate the outcome. However, staying put can be riskier than changing. Whether it’s in your career or a relationship, you risk being left behind if you don’t continue to grow.” Continuing, he points out, “Although we reject uncertainty, we have the skills to change and evolve. Fear is an emotion that gets in the way — we lose clarity about our potential.”
How We Keep Ourselves from Changing
“Our fear of change is based on stories — both real and the imagined ones we tell ourselves. We narrate our lives as if they are out of our control — we feel as [if] we are playing a part someone else wrote for us. Your life is not a book written by others — create your own storyline,” Razzetti opines.
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“The fact that most outcomes are out of your control doesn’t mean you can’t play a more active role. If you want a different outcome, start by changing your mentality. You are not just a character; you are the author of your life.”
The fact is: you’re more in control of your personal story than you think you are. Just like a book, your life is composed of chapters. Inside each chapter, there are changes. Challenges are specific changes that we must face.
Let’s link the “changes and challenges” concept to one specific aspect of the commercial AV industry: sales. This centers on the three-foot distance across the width of a table; this is what separates the salesperson from the customer, and the outcome determines a business’ ultimate health.
I would suggest that, over the last 20 years, nothing has changed more than sales. Please permit me to make the case, using historical context and considering the challenges we face today.
A Salesperson’s Traditional Role
The story begins with the CI salesperson as they have been. Their primary role was to collect, deliver and explain information.
Historically, they interacted with three or four stakeholders on a project purchase. These days, Gartner Research reports, they interact with anywhere from 12 to 20-plus stakeholders. In this environment, stakeholder opinions flourish and everyone wants to chime in. What’s the “culprit” causing this change? The availability of information any time, any place, on any digital device.
Today they encounter a plethora of buyers who think they know it all when all they have is a generic product description and what we call “the speeds and feeds” (i.e., the specs). These buyers saw something online at a “reputable” website, so it must be true, right?
This is where the challenge comes in. You don’t have to tell people that they’re entirely wrong (although they might be); you might just tell them that their information is incomplete. Yes, their perception is their reality, and, in their minds, you are only trying to sell them something. But, the fact is, you aren’t (or shouldn’t be) there simply to sell products; you should be there to solve problems!
Addressing and Changing Stakeholder Perception
Addressing and changing their perception is the biggest challenge that we face. Recent end-user research (Gartner, Harvard Business, Forbes, etc.) shows the following:
- Only 8% of customers say their sales reps exceed expectations.
- Only 23% of buyers look to “vendor salespeople” as a top-three resource to solve business problems.
- About 70% of customers have already defined their own needs and decided to purchase something before they engage salespeople.
- According to Forbes research, 55% of salespeople lack basic sales skills and do not have effective communication skills.
Salespeople must change those perceptions. We cannot change buyers’ behavior, so we must alter our sales behavior. Once upon a time, we led with products, we now must focus on buyers as individuals — that is, we must understand their hot buttons, their pain points and their problems. Most importantly, we must understand the implications of those problems for them, their department and their company.
This injects the concept of “value” into the equation. I’m not talking about the value of the product; instead, I’m referring to the value you offer by telling them something they didn’t already know. The secret to success is to employ a new sales approach built around really knowing the customer and providing value in their eyes.
They can get products anywhere; they cannot, however, get the value you provide just anywhere. That is unique to you and differentiates you from competitors. It also differentiates you from the good ol’ internet.
Sales Training Is More Important Now Than Ever Before
Now, here’s the good news. As noted earlier, our minds are flexible and adaptive. We can train our brains to thrive amid change. Sales is a skill that can be taught and learned if you have an open mind. You can wade through what is available for sales training to see what fits (or take our AVIXA-sponsored seminar, called “Sales’ New Role and the Importance of You”). But, whatever you do, get trained.
Over 74% of Fortune 500 companies say that coaching and sales training can improve the performance of individual salespeople by, on average, more than 20%. Sales training arms the sales team with the skills they need to do the following:
- Provide a better sales experience for current and prospective clients.
- Help improve the company culture and promote professionalism.
- Help improve sales-team collaboration.
- Improve the desire for product knowledge.
- Stay up to date on industry trends and the competition.
- Identify and address individual strengths and weaknesses.
- Retain top sales talent.
- And…drum roll, please…increase and improve sales performance.
Not every chapter or episode in your personal book of life will be successful. And that’s OK — after all, you can always write a new one. The beauty of life is that you can correct your course and adapt.
Richard Branson said, “In business, if you realize you’ve made a bad decision, you change it.” Don’t feel frustrated if what you’re currently doing is not working as well as you expected. Seek out answers and use your energy to write the next chapter.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Commercial Integrator through the support of LG December 5, 2022 and has since been updated for CE Pro audiences.