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专栏 - 向Anne提问

销售人员正在被时代淘汰吗?

Anne Fisher 2016年03月02日

Anne Fisher为《财富》杂志《向Anne提问》的专栏作者,这个职场专栏始于1996年,帮助读者适应经济的兴衰起落、行业转换,以及工作中面临的各种困惑。
在互联网涌起的大潮中,许多销售人员的危机感日益强烈。你无法阻止时代前进的步伐,但你可以设法让自己成为一位不可或缺的销售精英。

亲爱的安妮:我们公司的一位高管正在建议裁掉销售人员。他表示,客户如今更愿意绕开销售人员,在网上研究他们想买的东西,并直接从网络供应商那里下单。为了证明他的观点,他给每个人都发了一封邮件,其中引用了弗雷斯特研究公司的研究报告。该报告认为,到2020年,这一趋势将导致100万个销售岗位消失。

我认为这种趋势不会影响到我,因为我的团队销售的是一种复杂的系统,必须为每个客户量身定制,客户会希望我亲身演示给他们看。是我自欺欺人吗?您怎么看?——J.M.

亲爱的J.M.:担心被科技淘汰的绝不止你一个。外科医生、飞行员甚至记者都可能被智能机器人取代,这是迟早的事儿。麦肯锡全球研究所一项新研究指出,如今有45%的工作都可以通过现有的技术实现自动化。

这项研究表示,在美国,“这些工作代表着每年2万亿美元的工资。”甚至连首席执行官也不能幸免,因为麦肯锡的研究人员发现高管“有大量工作是可以被自动化的”。

此外,你们公司那位高管所言不虚。销售数据分析公司Gryphon Networks的高级副总裁埃里克•埃斯法哈年表示:“销售业将会面临大洗牌。”从惠普和EMC开始,埃斯法哈年已经在商业智能软件领域耕耘了20年之久。他说:“最底层10%或20%的B2B推销员,尤其是那些推销产品简单、销售周期短的员工,将会被B2B电子商务取代。”

即使是你这种涉及更复杂产品、销售周期更长的工作,那些“起初并没有真正从事销售工作的员工”也会大批离去。埃斯法哈年表示,这种情形很像2000年代初期至中期的房地产业,那时“许多人进入房地产业,因为这个行业蓬勃发展,挣钱很容易。”在2008年行业不景气以后,大部分人都主动逃离或是被迫离开。

埃斯法哈年建议,把现在看作你的2008年,“让你自己变得不可替代”。他给推销员提出了三条建议。

学会打电话。如今,大数据分析技术可以找出那些效率最高的销售人员是怎么做的。事实证明,销售人员的老套法则“微笑加上打电话”是有事实支撑的。Gryphon Networks的数据显示,要吸引一名新客户,平均需要打8个电话,面见一次。相反,不那么优秀的销售人员通常打了两次电话后就选择放弃。

为什么呢?“用电子邮件和社交媒体联系别人会更加舒服,因为不用那么害怕遭到他人直接拒绝。但真正有利可图的交易从来都不是从电子邮件开始的,你必须拿起电话。”

详细记录好你所打过的电话,包括电话推销和与现有客户的谈话。埃斯法哈年表示:“这些记录可以显示你每天坚持打20、30还是甚至40个电话,并指出有多少电话最终导致了会面。如果你带上这些记录参加求职面试,你就领先了至少70%的候选人。”

仔细观察公司或行业顶尖销售人员。也许你也是其中一员。但埃斯法哈年表示,新入行者尤其要向销售类似产品或系统的最优秀的推销员学习一些特殊技巧,这一点至关重要。他建议:“研究他们的一些行为细节,试着也这么做。起初你感觉像是在模仿他们,但经过练习,他们最棒的方法就会变成你的。”

采纳那些对最佳从业者有效的策略,对学习任何技能(包括管理)来说都是一种好方法,在如今的销售领域尤为如此。在即将到来的洗牌中,可能只有最具效率的推销员才能留下,没人有空去做重复工作。

努力做好网站(或机器人)不能做的事情。毫无疑问,员工在未来最需要的技巧,都是与他人交往相关的。这包括团队建设、创意生成,以及和同伴一起设定目标,想出问题的创新解决方案。如果你在销售定制化系统,你的客户需要你帮助他们解决问题,那就说明你在这方面已经付出了很大努力。

在此基础上还要做得更多。埃斯法哈年建议:“学习如何积极聆听,学习如何与人交往,如何阅读他们没有说出的事情。你怎样平息一名愤怒的客户?你如何在谈话中追加销售、交叉销售,或是介绍一款新产品或服务?”

“你在情感共鸣、团队合作和沟通技巧上的本领越强,你就会‘永不过时’。”(财富中文网)

祝你好运。

译者:严匡正

审校:任文科

Dear Annie: A senior manager here is pushing to cut our staff because he says customers now would rather bypass a human salesperson, research what they want to buy online, and get it directly from an online supplier. To prove his point, he emailed everyone a Forrester research study from last spring that says this trend will cause at least 1 million sales jobs to disappear by 2020.

I don’t think this applies to me because the complex systems my team sells have to be customized for each client, and they expect us to show up in person to do that. But am I burying my head in the sand? What do you think? — Just Marty

Dear J.M.: You’re not the only one worrying about being shoved aside by technology. Surgeons, airline pilots, even (gulp) journalists are fair game to be replaced by smart robots, and sooner rather than later. A new study from the McKinsey Global Institute says that about 45% of the jobs people do now could be automated with technology that already exists.

In the U.S., “these activities represent about $2 trillion in annual wages,” the study says. Not even CEOs are entirely immune, since McKinsey’s researchers found that chief executives “have a significant amount of activity that could be automated.”

Moreover, it seems your senior manager has a point. “There is going to be a big shakeout in sales,” says Eric Esfahanian. A senior vice president at sales-data analytics firm Gryphon Networks, Esfahanian has worked with business intelligence software for two decades, starting with stints at HP and EMC. “The bottom 10% or 20% of business-to-business salespeople, especially those who are selling a simple product with a short sales cycles, are going to lose out to B2B e-commerce.”

Even jobs like yours, involving more complex products with longer sales cycles, will see a sizable exodus of “people who really didn’t belong in sales in the first place.” Esfahanian likens this to the real estate business in the early-to-mid 2000s, when “lots of people went into real estate because it was booming and there was a lot of easy money around.” Most of them fled, or were forced out, in late 2008 when the going got rocky.

Think of this moment as your 2008, Esfahanian suggests, and “make yourself indispensable.” He sees three ways salespeople can do that:

Learn to love the phone. Now that Big Data analytic techniques have made it possible to measure what the most productive salespeople do, it turns out that the old stereotype of a salesperson “smiling and dialing” has some basis in fact. Gryphon Networks’ data show that bringing in a new client takes an average of eight phone calls to reach the right person and set up a meeting. By contrast, less stellar salespeople give up after two phone calls.

Why? “Email and social media are more comfortable ways to contact people, because there isn’t as much fear of immediate rejection,” he says. “But a big lucrative deal will never start with an email. You have to pick up the phone.”

Keep a detailed log of your phone calls, including cold calls and conversations with current clients. “It should show a consistent pattern of 20, 30, or even 40 calls a day, and note how many resulted in an in-person meeting,” Esfahanian says. “If you take that log to a job interview, it will put you ahead of at least 70% of candidates.”

Watch the top salespeople in your company or industry.Maybe you are already one of them. But, particularly for people new to the field, Esfahanian says it’s crucial to learn the specific techniques that work for the best salespeople who are selling a similar product or system. “Study the details of what they do and try it,” he suggests. “It might feel like you’re just imitating them at first, but with practice, their best methods will become yours.”

Adopting what works for the best practitioners has always been a good way to learn any craft (including management), but it makes even more sense in sales right now. The coming shakeout will probably leave only the most productive salespeople standing, and no one has time to reinvent the wheel.

Get even better at the things a website (or a robot) can’t do. There’s little doubt that the skills employers will need most in the years ahead are all about interacting with other people. These include team-building, idea generation, and collaborating with fellow humans to set goals and come up with creative solutions to problems. If you’re selling customized systems to clients who need your advice on how to tackle their challenges, you’re already doing a lot of this.

Do more of it. “Take a course in active listening,” Esfahanian advises. “Study how to engage people, and how to read the things they don’t say. How do you defuse an angry client? How do you up-sell, or cross-sell, and introduce an additional product or service into the conversation?

“The more expertise you can develop in empathy, teamwork, and communication, the more ‘future-proof’ you’ll be.”

Good luck.

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