The evolution of sales goes back to the beginning of time when money was non-existent. The business was rich, but so was the role played by Agriculture in all transactions.
The typical and most common way people procured their products or services was through the barter system–the direct exchange of goods or services without the use of money. For example, a farmer might have exchanged some of his harvest with a carpenter for some wooden furniture.
Now, the sales process culminates in money as payment, and sooner rather than later, the process is going to be shorter with technology and automation taking over.
The Evolution Of Sales
The evolution of sales, like any aspect of life subject to change started from somewhere.
Looking back at the history of agriculture, everything used to be focused on the bulk transportation of commodities. Agribusinesses, including suppliers and elevators, served farmers from central locations. It was a barter trade system.
The survival f this model was the ability to have access to the other party involved in the transaction. To streamline the process, the traditional market place. With the markets, came the urge to have a uniform mode of transaction – hence money in various currencies.
The Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century and going forward was a major player in the shift of production to mass production from various industries. This meant that goods were produced quicker and on a larger scale. This created the sellers’ marketplace. The main objective of the sellers’ marketplace is to establish a supply chain to procure products and then establish a distribution channel to sell the products to a wide variety of customers, often referred to as mass marketing.
Today, turbulence in sales is marvelous. There is a changing aspect happening by the day.
In 2012, Harvard Business Review reported that: “The hardest thing about B2B selling today is that customers don’t need you the way they used to.”
Managers used to be responsible for safety, logistics, and operations but with the addition of technology-based products, managers also became responsible for sales. This made sense. Managers knew the market area, people, products, and ground and had the relationships to be able to sell to the customers who visited their location.
Sales are looked at as a function and the manager has to be aware of the conversation between the sales reps and the clients. A uniform sales funnel of all the reps helps the sales manager has to understand what is happening during sales interactions, what makes them successful, what skills salespeople need, and how he or she can effectively coach sales interactions.
But this model of sales management is no longer sustainable. Retail consolidation meant that locations became further apart, which required more sellers at a single location. Complex products and information meant more expertise was required in the sales process.
The seven-step sales process is only a good start, though, because you need to customize it to your particular business—and, more importantly, to your target customers as you move them through the sales funnel.
An effective sales process is:
- Customer-centric – Buyers are more empowered, better informed, and have wider options than in the past. Businesses ought to respect that.
- Clearly defined – To be effective, each stage and element in your sales process must be well understood by all stakeholders.
- Replicable – Every rep should be able to replicate all the steps in the sales process without confusion.
- Predictable – The flow and expected outcomes in your sales process should follow a predictable pattern.
- Goal-oriented – A sales process focuses on improving your ability to meet specific objectives (e.g., drive revenue growth, achieve process efficiencies, etc).
- Measurable – All the activities in your sales process should be quantifiable, so you can measure success and improve.
- Adaptable. A sales process must be flexible enough to accommodate changing business climates, tech integrations, or changes in your sales operations.
Data now also plays a role in how those interactions are approached, and there are a variety of techniques salespeople can use. The sales process will differ for every company one way or another. Some companies sell their products right in the store, while others need to sit potential clients out of the stores to make the sales. The sales process works best when it is assimilated into the model of the company.
As we go forth to embrace technology, Artificial Intelligence will become a must-have component of any sales transaction.
Most organizations have begun to invest in AI to guide their sales representatives as it helps organizations stay adaptable to changing customer needs and evolving markets. Technology is the future of the evolution of sales.
AI guided sales usually take the form of machine learning generated advice offered to reps on their CRM or other software. It’s primarily designed to help salespeople stay organized, prioritize leads, choose the customer most likely to buy for their next sales call, and so on.
When its impact is fully realized, it gives salespeople more time to sell and information that they leverage to sell more effectively. I’ve seen solutions like this work, even quite well. With such great promise, companies are investing in and designing their custom solutions. Many start-ups are developing solutions and makers of CRM software have widgets designed to address AI-guided selling. In my experience, most companies are struggling to implement this approach.
The need for a streamlined process saw the evolution of sales go from barter trade to definite market places. There was a further development to defined currencies and today, machine and the technology-based transaction is going to take over. The machine is no replacement for a salesperson but if used cleverly, AI can drive greater effectiveness for the sales organization. Like most AI projects, it’s not an easy goal to achieve, but with persistence, the hype can live up to reality.
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