Make Sure Your Salespeople Aren’t Stuck in the Past

Gartner’s Maria Boulden, one of the featured speakers at MDM’s upcoming Sales GPS conference, says salespeople who still harbor a 2019 mindset stand little chance of survival.
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Maria Boulden’s recent LinkedIn posts and virtual presentations sparked some people to call her the “Sarah Connor of modern-day selling,” she tells MDM with a laugh.

For those who don’t immediately get that reference, Sarah Connor is the lead character in The Terminator movie franchise, which features time travel and altered states of the past, present and future.

While it might seem like a stretch to apply such science fiction hallmarks to distribution, the business world is undergoing a Terminator-like shift because sales professionals risk their own demise if they continue to operate as they did before COVID-19 hit. In other words, Boulden argues, they need to make sure they aren’t trapped in the past.

“If you’re sending a sales professional who’s stuck in 2019 into the sales environment of 2021, you’re sending them into a kill box,” says Boulden, vice president and executive partner for sales at Gartner. “Distributors are the principal part of a company’s go-to-market strategy, and if they have not adapted to what the world is both today and going forward, then they won’t survive.”

Boulden is one of the saviors for companies that want to ensure their sales teams are operating in the right year and not some past reality (perhaps that makes her more like Terminator’s Reese, but that’s a conversation for another time). She will present her ideas on the shifting nature of the sales landscape at MDM’s annual Sales GPS Conference to be held Nov. 1-3 in Chicago.

Her presentation is titled — appropriately — “The Future of Distribution Sales.” She said her two-hour session on the final day of the three-day event will include 45 minutes of content, followed by 20-30 minutes of Q&A and then a panel discussion for 45 minutes to an hour.

Boulden’s mission: Present data that shows why distributors need to change their mindset around sales models and how they can begin to transform their teams.

“We’re coming in with data that shows how buying behaviors have shifted,” Boulden said. “And because of that, of course, selling behaviors must shift because if you’re not selling in a way that’s consistent with how buyers buy, you’re whiffing. You’re not meeting them where they are, you’re meeting them where they used to be — and they’re not there anymore.”

The importance of sales transformation

As Boulden said to tease her presentation, a distributor that future proofs its sales models can meet multiple goals.

One, they are likely to build a moat around their business, making them impenetrable to competitors. And two, they can expect to see their valuation climb, making them more attractive to potential buyers.

“This becoming a story of the haves and have-nots,” Boulden said. “There aren’t many people straddling the line. There are the Amazons, Graingers, the juggernauts of the industry. And then there are the mom-and-pops, the privately held companies, maybe a few ESOPs — but the ones that maybe aren’t as big and aren’t as sophisticated. They are either getting snapped up by PE or they’re getting snapped up by the bigger players. It’s a very Darwinian story — the ones that aren’t sophisticated are getting either overtaken financially, beaten at the game and going out of business, or they’re being taken over by bigger players.

“Distributors that transform their sales models have created for themselves either something very profitable when they sell it, or something impossible for somebody else to swallow because they’re so good at what they do. They’re either going to command a huge price point if somebody wants to buy them, or they’re indefensible and nobody can beat them.”

To make sure you fit into the camp of commanding huge price points or being unbeatable, click here to register for Sales GPS — and make sure your company has the tools needed to transform its sales model.

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